On the registration page for Facebook's F8 developer conference, two new questions popped up this year, seeking demographic information from attendees:

  • What is your gender?
  • What is your ethnicity?

Those may seem like irrelevant things to ask programmers seeking to learn how to make their mobile apps play nice with Facebook's technology. But the questions follow a year of disclosures from Silicon Valley companies about the makeup of their workforce -- which, it turns out, is overwhelmingly white and male. Facebook won't disclose what the ratio at its conference was like last year, but the Menlo Park, California-based company says the data will help them improve it.
"We’re asking them because we want to better understand the demographics of people attending F8," Facebook said in a statement.

Men fill about 80 percent of the technical positions at leading tech companies. At Facebook, it's 85 percent

Only about 1 percent of engineers at Facebook, Google and Twitter are black, and around 3 percent are Hispanic. The disparity can lead to uncomfortable situations for minority engineers who want to get their companies funded, or even speak up in front of their peers. 

Facebook wouldn't give more information about how it plans to use the data for the F8 conference on March 25-26. But Google's efforts may give a clue. Last year, the Web-search company said it more than doubled the number of women participating in its Google I/O developer conference, to 20 percent.

For now, the focus is on gathering demographic data. "We’re partnering with a number of organizations to make sure we accomplish this," including Girls Who Code, Hackbright and the Anita Borg Institute, Facebook said.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access