“It all happened at the same time,” says Jessica P. “And we were part of it.”
Jessica, a Global Mobility Manager at Facebook, is sharing the impact of Native@, Facebook’s internal community of Native people. This includes influencing the way people register their names and identities on Facebook to recruiting STEM students from Native communities and being present at Native community and national events. Jessica, who is Nez Perce and Lakota, grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. Her mother’s family is from the Standing Rock reservation in Fort Yates, North Dakota and her father is from Kamiah, Idaho.
Jessica and her daughter, Jordan, a former Facebook employee, felt a strong urgency to elevate Native@ from a club to a full-fledged employee resource group. This choice was inspired by a simple yet crucial element in the Facebook user experience: authentic names.
“We were having issues with ‘real names,’” Jessica says, speaking to one of the ways someone’s identity is verified on Facebook. Jessica and her daughter were instrumental in driving a policy change in how Native people can verify their identity. “Previously, people used a drivers license or a passport. It was a pretty limited list,” explains Jessica.
Jessica beams with pride as she explains how her daughter worked with the Global Policy team in helping to stop Native peoples' profiles from being incorrectly flagged. “We had them add tribal ID and First Nation ID to the global list of authorized documents so their names were easily verifiable. Jordan was the person who drove that successfully, which is phenomenal.”
At the same time that broader identity verifications for Native people were rolling out, tensions were brewing at Standing Rock over plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Opponents of the pipeline’s construction were concerned that in the event of a pipeline spill, the oil would seep into the drinking water in the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation, compromising the health and livelihood of the residents and tribal members.
Seeing this huge climate justice issue play out in a place so close to her heart inspired Jessica to seek more resources for the Native@ group, and increase its visibility inside of Facebook.
“We have to be the voice of our community,” Jessica says. “So how do we do that?” They asked for meetings with internal policy team and community operations team leads and asked them to safe list known allies and activists who were being reported for content violations, when in fact their content did not violate our policies.
In April, Jessica attended the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a representative of Facebook. The Gathering of Nations is an annual event where Native people come together to celebrate and share culture. There, Jessica spoke before Grand Entry about Facebook’s new data center outside of Albuquerque and Facebook’s work in the community.
She also brought Facebook’s Native@ presence to the Reservation Economic Summit, a gathering of Native entrepreneurs who build industry on their home reservations and develop their own businesses beyond the Native community.
Through her work on the Global Mobility team, Jessica oversees opportunities for businesses looking to contract with Facebook. “In partnership with the Supplier Diversity Program, we're committed to giving women and minority-owned businesses the opportunities to bid on Facebook RFPs in the communities that we impact,” she says.
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is a primary entry-point for students and graduates in the Native community who are looking at STEM career opportunities. AISES also works closely with college scholarship programs and resources.
“We just returned from the AISES conference in Milwaukee, where we hosted a networking suite,” Jessica says. “We had meaningful one on one conversations with students and STEM professionals interested in Facebook and our Native@ community.”
Jessica personally answered questions about Facebook culture and why she continues to believe in Facebook’s mission. “It was a great experience for us, and we came away with a great appreciation for the work AISES does for our community and how we can work together to recruit and continue to build community at Facebook.”
Every year, the editorial staff of AISES’ magazine votes on AISES sponsors and participants who work to genuinely create a welcoming and supportive environment for Native and indigenous people. Rather than ranking each company individually, a list of the top 50 companies is created, and Facebook was among them.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, took notice. “Sheryl wanted to meet and discuss Facebook’s making the AISES list this year. She was so excited and complimentary to everyone working through Native@ to make it happen.”
When Jessica joined Facebook nine years ago, leading the Native@ group was not at the top of her to-do list. “I had not been actively thinking that I needed to do this at all,” she says. “When I got here it was pre-IPO and we were in heavy build mode. I was recruited to build a best-in-class global mobility team and I took that very seriously. Now, I've taken on this advocacy work on behalf of Native people to create pathways for them to get into Facebook, and being a voice for our community.”