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Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook will add African-American board member

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SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook told members of the Congressional Black Caucus that the social media giant was committed to adding an African American to its board of directors.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg made the commitment during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Sandberg told lawmakers Facebook was in negotiations with a board candidate whose identity she did not disclose. She declined to to say when an announcement would be made. Facebook’s board has eight members, none of whom are African American.

Facebook declined to comment.

More: Facebook finds Russian ads that sought to sow division during U.S. election

Sandberg is on Capitol Hill this week meeting with lawmakers over Russian government-linked ads on Facebook that sought to sow political division around the presidential election. 

Facebook ads run by an organization linked to the Russian government were intended to heighten tensions in the country over divisive issues such as race.

“I think today’s meeting was productive and sets us on a path to get more answers and eventually, change. Facebook and other digital companies cannot become a Trojan Horse for foreign efforts to influence our democratic elections,” Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) said in a statement. “Accountability standards exist for radio and TV advertising and clearly must exist for social media and online advertising.”

Diversity in the technology industry is a major issue for the Congressional Black Caucus, which has been pressing Silicon Valley to accelerate efforts to hire women and people of color. 

Top universities turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, a USA TODAY analysis showed.

And it’s not just computer science: Minorities are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration, with African Americans faring noticeably worse than Hispanics, according to USA TODAY research.

Women now make up 35% of Facebook’s global workforce, up from 33%, and hold 19% of technical roles, up from 17%, the Menlo Park, Calif. company said in July.

In the U.S., Facebook has brought aboard more people of color. Three percent of Facebook workers are African American, up from 2%, and 5% of them are Hispanic, up from 4%. 

But Facebook fell short where the lack of diversity is most acute, in the proportion of African-American and Hispanic workers in technical roles, which has stayed flat at 1% and 3% respectively since 2014.

The percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in senior leadership positions at Facebook has also remained largely unchanged.

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