On Monday, Twitter announced the hire of a new vice president of diversity and inclusion. Jeffrey Siminoff is joining Twitter after serving as Apple’s former director of worldwide inclusion and diversity. Twitter’s prominent hire has extensive experience, but he’s also a white male, which counters the company’s attempt to diversify its workforce.
In July 2014, Twitter released the gender and race statistics of its workforce. It was a dismal report. White and Asian men dominated both engineering and editorial positions. At the time, African-Americans comprised 2 percent of Twitter’s overall workforce while women of color weren’t represented at all. Twitter’s executives vowed to diversify their staff in an effort to make the company representative of its users. Twitter unveiled several employee-led groups, including the Twitter accounts @Blackbirds, to promote underrepresented groups working at Twitter.
Twitter reaffirmed their commitment to diversity this past August by unveiling several representation goals. Those goals included increasing the number of female employees to 35 percent and increasing the number of underrepresented minorities to 11 percent. The company also vowed to recruit potential employees from historical Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and build relationships with organizations, like #YesWeCode, that promote job growth for people of color.
Seeing as 22 percent of African-American Internet users are active on Twitter, diversifying their workforce is important. However, as reporter Rupert Neate points out at the Guardian, Twitter only employs 49 African-Americans. Despite the overrepresentation of African-Americans using the platform, there’s still disconnect between users and those paid to make decisions.
“Black people are greater users of the product and capable of doing the jobs, but there has not been an adequate commitment to hire, train and maintain [black people],” Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Guardian in August. “Some people call it ‘Black Twitter’ because we over-index so much, but they still don’t hire more black people. We are becoming intolerant with these numbers, there’s a big gap between their talk and their implementation.”
Tina Huang, a software engineer at Twitter, filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the company for favoring white men for promotions. In response to the lawsuit, a Twitter spokesperson said, “Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms. Huang was treated fairly.”
In this instance, and in the hiring of Siminoff, it is clear that Twitter is dedicated to offering lip service instead of systemic solutions. Mark S. Luckie, Twitter’s former manager of journalism and news, highlighted as much in an article for the Verge.
“Only 3 percent of Twitter’s employees are black or Latino, according to publicly released numbers, and Twitter could have made a bold statement by hiring a woman or racial minority for what is ultimately a symbolic role” Luckie wrote about the hiring of Siminoff. “As the former manager of journalism and news at Twitter and someone who fought for internal diversity, I am dismayed. Particularly at a company that is lacking in racial and gender diversity, assigning the critical task of changing those ratios to a white man sends the wrong message to the public.”
Hiring a white man to solve Twitter’s diversity problem only proves that the company, and the tech world in general, is committed to exclusivity – at the expense of people of color and women.