Diversity in Tech: Are Twitter's 2016 Promises Disappointing or Just Realistic?
Late last week, Twitter published an announcement on its blog regarding the company's diversity goals. Depending on your perspective, they are either modest and realistic, or just disappointing.
According to the last workplace demographic transparency report released by Twitter in 2014, the proportions of women and underrepresented minorities working throughout the company are similar to other Silicon Valley giants -- meaning they're pretty low.
So an announcement titled "We're committing to a more diverse Twitter," published by the company (via The Guardian) last Friday detailing clear bottom-line goals for a more diverse workforce would seemingly be welcome news.
Except that, after a series of year-on diversity report updates from companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and even #Parity2020 torchbearer Intel yielded mixed results and little overall change, Twitter took a more conservative stance on how much progress it wants to make.
"We're holding ourselves accountable to these measurable goals, as should you," wrote Janet Van Huysse, VP of diversity and inclusion at the 140-character social media company. Here are those measurable goals:
- Increase women overall to 35%
- Increase women in tech roles to 16%
- Increase women in leadership roles to 25%
- Increase underrepresented minorities overall to 11%*
- Increase underrepresented minorities in tech roles to 9%*
- Increase underrepresented minorities in leadership roles to 6%*
(The asterisked goals apply only within the U.S.)
To get a sense of how modest these goals are, consider Twitter's diversity breakdown as of July 2015.
So overall, Twitter wants to increase its proportion of women staffers by 1 percent, and tech and leadership jobs by 3 percent, each. Or as the LA Times, doing a back-of-the-napkin calculation, put it, "In a global workforce of 4,100, that's 41 more women."
Twitter's proportion of underrepresented minorities, if you can even make out those figures to add them up, is currently 8 percent. Only 4 percent of Twitter's U.S.-based staff is Latino. Twitter wants to move the overall goalpost of underrepresented minorities by 3 percent but only in the U.S.
There are a couple reasons why Twitter could be setting modest goals, including an abundance of caution after the aforementioned summer of slow, halting progress on diversity. Better to promise less and deliver more than to disappoint.
Another reason could be specific to Twitter, a company that has struggled to impress investors since its IPO. Some on Wall Street are calling for a slim-down on Twitter's expenses, making setting any hiring goals a tricky proposition.
Add the shaky situation with investors with the fact that Twitter has a large employee base, meaning it takes a lot to move the bottom line by each tick, and you get a less ambitious, and perhaps, less confident set of diversity goals.
It also doesn't help that the presumed end goal is so far away from the current situation. As angel investor and chief of PicMonkey Jonathan Sposato told the LA Times, "The numbers are probably not more aggressive because they're currently really bad."
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