I’ve often blogged about being aware, as a product manager, of who your user are and that you are not thy user. I believe that as a PM you need to be aware of all the different groups that are using your product and how they are using it.
That said, it is clear that in Silicon Valley we can be blinded by the culture in which we live. There are a number of apps that I have always thought would not have even been conceived outside of this area (and New York’s Silicon Alley) such as Uber and Lyft, Tinder, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and Secret. They’re apps designed for single, young, well-off, techies living in big cities. They’re trying to solve their own pain points, sometimes at the expense of others. The two recent examples are the apps that sell reservations not at the behest or even the approval of the restaurants and the parking apps trying to sell access to public curbside spaces.
Some of these apps are doing quite well outside the early adopters of the tech community. This shows that they were viable ideas that work well for a large and diverse group of people. Great.
Let’s take a moment to look at the greatest success of the recent few years: Facebook. The social network is now at 1.28 billion monthly active Facebook users (MAUs) which is a 15 percent increase year over year. That’s an incredible user base with incredible growth. Two other facts about these users:
Age-wise Facebook used to be a bastion of youth but as its popularity has grown and it has become widespread, more older users have joined. In the US, the 45- to 54-year-old age bracket has seen 46% growth since year-end 2012. Also, in the last three years, the over 55 age group has exploded with +80.4% growth.
Which leads me to Facebook’s publication yesterday of the diversity of their employees. It turns out that men make up 85% of workers in tech, where product managers work, and women are 15%. Facebook didn’t break down its employees by age but I don’t think they’re representative of the user base either. Probably by the same bias.
To summarize (yes, this has been longer than I thought it would be):
Good product managers can create great products for people not in their demographic group and I’m sure Facebook employs the best in the field. But a group of young, white men tend to create products that work well within their demographic. Isn’t it time to get more viewpoints on the team?
Final note: I couldn’t find any ethnic breakdown of Facebook’s user base to run a similar comparison. Anyone have any data?