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Twitter VP Apologizes For Diversity 'Blind Spot'

Illustration for article titled Twitter VP Apologizes For Diversity Blind Spot

Twitter recently saw an engineer publicly step down from his post due to dissatisfaction with the way the tech giant treats minority employees and the effort to increase diversity. Since then, a top representative of the company has responded, apologizing for its shortcomings and promising to do better.

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Early this week, former Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley wrote a post on Medium diving into the diversity problem at the tech giant.

He had suggested to the Senior VP of Engineering Alex Roetter that he focus on diversity in engineering, to which Roetter counter-suggested that Miley create a tool to figure out what candidates they were receiving based on their last names. Miley wrote:

His rationale was to track candidates thru the pipeline to understand where they were falling out. He made the argument that the last name Nguyen, for example, has an extremely high likelihood of being Vietnamese. As an engineer, I understand this suggestion and why it may seem logical. However, classifying ethnicity’s [sic] by name is problematic as evidenced by my name (Leslie Miley). What I also found disconcerting is this otherwise highly sophisticated thinker could posit that an issue this complex could be addressed by name analysis. (For reference, here is a tool that attempts to do that. With Jewish or African/African Americans, this classifier scored 0% on identifying these groups in Twitter engineering). While not intentional, his idea underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity.

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Miley quit shortly after that meeting, asking how, in good conscience, he could continue to work at an organization that so profoundly misunderstood diversity.

Roetter has since responded to Miley’s post with his own, also on Medium.

“I realize that we have blind spots, myself included. One of mine is that I have a tendency to default to engineering-driven, quantitative solutions,” he wrote.

“I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity. That hasn’t always been the case, which is unacceptable,” Roetter continues, noting that some of the comments attributed to him are inaccurate.

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In August, Twitter set a number of diversity-related goals, which demonstrate the current homogeneity of the staff. The goals include increasing women in the company to 35 percent (and women in tech and leadership to 16 and 25 percent respectively), and increasing “underrepresented minorities” overall to 11 percent (and in tech and leadership to 9 and 6 percent).

“Twitter and our industry must make faster progress on the issue of diversity,” Roetter continued, outlining a number of specific steps the company would be taking.

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“Ultimately, it’s better to show the world rather than tell the world.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

Image via Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

globalbeet
Global Beet

“I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity”

Ugh, no the fuck you don’t. This is the thing that bugs the hell out of me. Five years ago, many of these same Silicon Valley execs prattled on about “true meritocracies” when confronted with the homogeny of leadership in their industries (remember that Tech Crunch douche).

Obviously that disingenuous argument doesn’t work, so now these people are feigning concern about diversity in the workplace? Bullshit. What would have happened if that black engineer would have kept his mouth shut?

The fact of the matter is these executives, managers and people in leadership positions work, and likely hang out with, the type of people who post #blacklivesmatter on their social networks to show off to their friends how progressive they are. It’s why Twitter at one time had #ferguson emblazoned in giant letters on one of their walls. But are these people actually concerned about racism, systemic prejudice or any question of diversity, any further than bolstering their own social capital amongst their peers? I highly doubt it.

I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that guy is seething at the fact he even has to deign to write some trite nonsense defending his commitment to diversity. I’m willing to bet these silicon valley higher ups wish black people would just shut the hell up about this stuff and stop ruining their fun.

Just cut the nonsense. Silicon Valley is not the first place to reflect the type of generation-killing racism blacks and other minorities have to deal with in this country and it likely won’t be the last. Stop pretending like you give a damn, because frankly it’s insulting.