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Diversity in Tech: Slack Hires Engineer Who Quit Twitter Citing Lack of Diversity

First Posted: Apr 19, 2016 05:45 PM EDT
Slack Technologies

Slack Technologies(Photo : Slack)

The software engineer that publicly called out Twitter for its stifling, un-diverse leadership culture while leaving the company last year has a new job at Slack.

Last year, as Latin Post reported, a former managerial engineer at Twitter named Leslie Miley took to his Medium blog and publicly called out the struggling social media company for its lack of diversity shortly after quitting.

Taking Twitter to Task

In his essay, Miley took the top level leadership, especially in his department, to task for exhibiting what he described as "very little diversity in thought and almost no diversity in action," which he partly attributed as a reason for Twitter's nagging user-base growth problems.

"Any change would be approved by people who all think alike," wrote Miley, who had also worked at Apple, Google, and Yahoo.

On his experience at Twitter, he later added, "There were moments that caused me to question how and why a company whose product has been used as an agent of revolutionary social change did not reflect the diversity of thought, conversation, and people in its ranks."

A Symbolic Coup for Slack

Workplace communication media platform Slack, unlike Twitter or most average Silicon Valley companies for that matter, has gotten a lot of recognition for its standout efforts to grow diversity in its company from the very start.

According to Slack's most recent figures, as reported by Latin Post, women made up around 43 percent of the company's global workforce. That's about 14 percent higher than the industry average, and Slack's 8.9 percent of Black engineers working in the U.S. outpaces Silicon Valley as well.

But beyond the basic numbers, especially for a still-small startup, Slack has put a premium on fostering diversity in its company culture. That's according to the company's new director of engineering for Slack's growth team Leslie Miley.

Speaking with USA Today, Miley explained why he decided accept a job at Slack after his now-famous breakup with Twitter.

"The culture Slack is building here, the people they have and the things that they say are important to them really resonate with me as a human being, not just as an African American," said Miley. "Empathy and engineering -- when was the last time you heard those two words spoken in the same sentence?"

Cultures of Diversity Versus Exclusion

Slack still has much work to do regarding diversity in its workforce, something the company has admitted. For example, Slack still has no diversity in its major leadership roles at the top, and it has severely lagged behind in including Latino among its workforce. Only 5.3 percent of Slack's overall U.S. workforce was Latino as of February 2016, and only 4.1 percent of Slack's global employee base of around 350 people was Latino.

But Slack's advantage is its relatively small size, and its intention to grow into diversity as the company expands. "Because we are still small as companies go, every person we hire and every person who leaves can make a dramatic difference to our diversity data," stated the company in its latest diversity report.

For Miley, Slack has another inherent advantage, being founded in Vancouver, Canada instead of Silicon Valley (though the company's headquarters is now in San Francisco), which he says has become such an exclusive culture that it is "inherently hostile to diversity."

"There are tech ecosystems being developed in other areas that don't seem to have the ingrained bias and exclusivity that Silicon Valley has," remarked Miley on Slack and the new technology culture it seems to represent. "Perhaps they can be a model."

© 2015 Latin Post. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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