Rev. Jesse Jackson has demanded that Twitter disclose a “racial breakdown” of the employees affected by the company’s recent layoffs. “Twitter already has an appallingly low number and percentage of African Americans and Latinos working at the company, around 60 total in the workforce and zero in your boardroom and C-suite leadership,” he says in an open letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “We are concerned that a disproportionate number and percentage of Blacks and Latinos were adversely affected in your recent layoffs.”
This comes hot on the heels of the news that engineering manager Leslie Miley quit the company because of its poor track record when it came to hiring diverse talent. “During my time at Twitter I experienced the pride and sense of purpose on seeing #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter on the most prominent wall at Twitter HQ. That is something I will never forget,” Miley wrote in a blog post. “And yet 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.”
All this chatter about Twitter echoes the larger conversations surrounding diversity in tech that have been going on for years — without much changing, it seems. Morgen Bromell is the founder and CEO of Thurst, a new dating app designed for people of all gender identities. She recently wrote about her experiences within the tech industry since launching Thurst, specifically the way she has been perceived by many of her new peers, and how these perceptions may put off some people who are interested in coding.
“The underlying sentiment is that tech cannot inherently belong to me, a chubby, radical queer black woman but that I am borrowing part of someone else’s world, someone else’s experience,” she says. Never mind that disruptive apps like Tinder, hailed as both the saviour and grim reaper of romance by the media, might very well not exist had it not been for early trailblazers like Gaydar and Grindr, which were invented by queer people out of sheer necessity. “Anyone who identifies as anything other than straight knows how integral social media usage is in order to do what our heterosexual counterparts certainly take for granted,” says Bromell.
Twitter published its representation goals for 2016 in August, and announced that it is firmly committed to building a more diverse team, stating: “We want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter.” Nice words, but there are plenty of people waiting for some solid evidence of action. It would be a crying shame if a network that has been integral in helping so many campaign for freedom and equality didn’t take these ideas to heart.