More shame for Silicon Valley as Twitter releases its “pathetic” diversity numbers

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez July 23, 2014
Summary:
After much pressure from US Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, Twitter finally buckled and released its diversity figures – highlighting once again a fundamental problem in Silicon Valley.

Shock, horror! Another Silicon Valley tech company is largely employing White or Asian men, whilst sidelining women and people from other

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backgrounds. You're surprised right? I bet.

Today Twitter finally plucked up the courage to release its diversity numbers to the world, after coming under serious pressure from US Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and weeks after its peers Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and Facebook all released theirs. Congrats Twitter, I'm glad you've moved on from denial and are in the stages of acceptance. It's also worth noting that Twitter decided to release the stats just as the world was focusing on Facebook's latest results – coincidence?

I'm being a bit harsh, mostly because of Twitter's resistance, but obviously this isn't just Twitter's problem – it's a reflection of an ongoing cultural problem embedded in the DNA of Silicon Valley and the broader tech industry. A problem that's going to take years of hard work and a proactive approach to fix.

But let's take a look at the stats anyway. As you can see from the infographic, Twitter employees are currently 70% male and 30% female. However, when you break this down, women only make up 10% of technical roles and 20% of leadership roles.



 

Elsewhere, only 3% of Twitter's workforce is currently only made up of Hispanic or Latino employees, 2% Black or African-American, with the majority being White (59%) or Asian (29%). Again, within technical roles, Whites (58%) and Asians (34%) make up the majority, with people from other backgrounds only representing between 1 and 3%. This is also true for leadership positions, where 72% of those in charge are White and 24% are Asian.

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As I said, these figures are largely in line with what is happening in the industry as a whole, but still a depressing read nonetheless. Twitter's VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Janet Van Huysse, said in a blog post that the social media giant has a lot to be getting on with to make the company more representative of the general population. She said:

At Twitter, we have a goal to reach every person on the planet. We believe that goal is more attainable with a team that understands and represents different cultures and backgrounds.

It makes good business sense that Twitter employees are representative of the vast and varied backgrounds of our users around the world. We also know that it makes good business sense to be more diverse as a workforce – research shows that more diverse teams make better decisions, and companies with women in leadership roles produce better financial results. But we want to be more than a good business; we want to be a business that we are proud of.

To that end, we are joining some peer companies by sharing our ethnic and gender diversity data. And like our peers, we have a lot of work to do.

Van Huysse said that Twitter has a number of employee led groups – such as WomEng (women in engineering), Blackbird (Tweeps of colour) and TwitterOpen (LGBTQ employees) – that it is focusing on and putting effort into, in an attempt to get the statistics headed in a different direction. She also listed a host of other initiatives that Twitter is actively supporting, such as Girls Who Code, Girl Geek Dinners and sf.girls.

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Taken from Twitter's website - telling?

However, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push Coalition, which handed Twitter with thousands of signatures asking for the company to release its statistics, is now calling on the social media giant to work in partnership with the organisation to drive change. Jackson said:

Today, Twitter ended its resistance and refusal to release their data, and posted their EEO-1 workforce data on their website. Twitter’s paltry and pathetic workforce – 2% Black and 4% Latino – mirrors Silicon Valley.

Their numbers reflect the virtual exclusion of Blacks (just 2% of their workforce), and Latinos (4%); women lag far behind as well, just 30% of Twitter’s employee base. There are ZERO Blacks or Latinos on Twitter’s Board of Directors or in their C-suite leadership. Under pressure when it filed its IPO, Twitter added a woman to their Board.

While slow to release these inexcusable numbers, Twitter has taken a step in the right direction. We commend their move toward transparency and public accountability. Now Twitter must fulfill the second part of the petition demand: meet with RainbowPUSH, Color of Change, and our allies in the SF Bay Area community to engage in a positive dialogue about inclusion, diversity and corporate responsibility.

Verdict

A depressing read, but a step in the right direction (albeit a sluggish one).