Facebook now has a fill-in-the-blank gender option

Facebook has taken another step towards embracing gender diversity. Along with its 58 gender options, users can now write in their own answers. The AP reports that Facebook released the news with the statement, “Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own.”

Although the development is a positive one, why did it take so long? Facebook could have added the fill in the blank option exactly one year ago, when it first expanded its gender options. At that point it went from offering users just “male” and “female” to a host of other choices like queer, trans, and intersex. The company also allowed people to start choosing the pronoun they wish to be used — he, she, or they.

Facebook has had a turbulent year with gender identity issues. When it started deleting profiles with fake names in September, it eliminated many drag queen profiles and profiles of people who identify by different terms their given birth name. As a result, Facebook singlehandedly empowered newcomer Ello to rise to prominence — those unhappy with Facebook’s actions moved there. Facebook quickly backtracked and its Chief Product Office Chris Cox released a public apology about what had happened.

With today’s news about an added fill-in-the-blank option, it appears Facebook has continued to research and learn about gender diversity. The news comes the same week we saw a sneak peak of Apple’s new diverse emojis representing people of different ethnicities, another mostly positive development that should’ve happened a long time ago.

Y Combinator analyzed its data to figure out whether it’s discriminating

Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most popular business accelerator program for startups, released data to show it’s not discriminating against women, Hispanic and black founders when choosing what to fund.

It sampled 5 percent of its Winter 2015 applicants to find out their gender and ethnicity. It then compared the demographic statistics to the percentage of companies it funds.

YC found that it funds a comparable percentage of diverse companies to the applications it receives. The numbers aren’t 100 percent bulletproof, of course, since YC didn’t disclose how it drew its random 5 percent sample to represent its application demographics.

However, the accelerator should be commended for making the effort to check its funding tendencies at all and share the data publicly. Almost all of Silicon Valley’s big tech companies have diversity problems, which we compared using visualizations in August.

Here’s the numbers from YC’s blog:

11.8% of the founders who applied were women and around 3% percent of the founders were either Black or Hispanic.

Of the founders we funded in our most recent batch, 11.1% of the founders are women (about 23% of the startups have one or more female founders), 3.7% of the founders are Hispanic, and 4% of the founders are Black.

The accelerator acknowledged that although it doesn’t appear to discriminate in its funding choices, it’s problematic that so few female, black and hispanic founders apply to YC.  “We will continue and strengthen our outreach efforts,” YC partner Michael Seibel said in the post.

Study: Management should mandate co-ed teams

A new study reveals that we’re much more likely to choose others of the same gender to collaborate with and suggests that management should get involved to ensure teams are co-ed and chosen based on skills rather than personal comfort level. Is this really necessary?