Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp: the most used apps at the moment and all part of the parent company Meta. The company that invests heavily in Metaverse and is led by Mark Zuckerberg. Maxine Williams is the Chief Diversity Officer in this company and puts diversity first in Meta. We spoke to her at Meta’s headquarters in Amsterdam.
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It’s something of an event at Meta’s headquarters in Amsterdam that Maxine Williams, Chief Diversity Officer at Meta, is coming to visit them. We talk to her at the waterfront at the Amsterdam office, where she tells us her personal story. “When I was growing up on the small Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, I was always interested in justice. Because my country of origin was not important to the rest of the world, I began to dive deeper into the distribution of power and justice. So I decided to go to law school and work for a law firm in New York City. “
She excelled as a lawyer who advocated for equal rights, but also worked for a human rights organization and taught in the classroom. Speaking of diversity, Maxine’s CV is quite diverse. After working for seven years as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead at a law firm, Facebook (at the time) was looking for someone who would guarantee diversity and inclusivity in the firm. Maxine decided to apply and became Facebook’s first Chief Diversity Officer.
Chief Diversity Officer at Meta
‘Diversity always has to do with who you serve as a company. In the case of Facebook, they served the whole world, which is a very diverse place with different cultures, languages, religions, identities and backgrounds. To serve the whole world, there must be as much diversity as possible in the company. My biggest goal is to deliver products that serve a diverse world. ‘
Maxine is not necessarily involved in the production of technical products, but is involved in the input to these products. ‘You do this primarily by having different perspectives in the company.’ And there was a lot of work to do for Facebook, because when the company was started, they hardly thought about diversity. “If we only look at the women who are graduates in computer technology, it is only twenty percent. Of course, we would like to have fifty percent women in the company, but it is a huge challenge if only twenty percent are available, especially in the technology sector. ‘
‘When I look at diversity, I focus primarily on non-dominant groups. I’m not talking about representation in the world, but about power structures. ‘ She looks at people of color, but also at people with disabilities. ‘At least 15% of the world’s population has a disability. 5% of the people who make Metas products have a disability. My job is to get better at what we do by expanding the playing field. We all benefit from that ‘.
Maxine has goals where she will be in five years, for example, fifty percent of employees in the United States must come from underrepresented groups. Thirty percent of the management team must consist of colored people. ‘We have developed an application procedure that focuses on diversity, where we ask about measurable things such as gender and race, but also the languages spoken. Now people with different backgrounds can apply for our positions, and minority groups have more options. ‘
Was there a major diversity issue at Meta before? “There is a fundamental diversity problem everywhere, in some places it is mainly about religion and race, in other places more global issues like gender. My primary motivation is justice and fairness for all. When you allow everyone to participate, you really see what is possible. That way we can also build better products at Meta. ‘
Women in technology
What about the position of women in Meta? And does Maxine create more opportunities? “With our application procedure, we focus on inviting qualified people from minority groups to an interview. It includes women. We must be aware of creating opportunities for minorities, because our employees also receive training. We have a complete team that focuses on diversity and inclusivity. ‘ We also ask Maxine about her advice to other women: ‘We need to show what we have and not be afraid to do it. We shy away too often, but experience shows that it is good to say no so that you can contribute. ‘
Collaboration with Mark Zuckerberg
As Chief Diversity Officer, Maxine works very closely with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. What is it like working with him? ‘I immediately told him that things needed to change and how I wanted to do it. He immediately wanted to know more, asked a lot of questions and wondered how they could improve things at Meta. It is very inspiring and fun to work with him, he is very interesting, curious and eager to learn. He is also very funny and has a great sense of humor. ‘
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