Jeffrey Siminoff/Twitter

Jeffrey Siminoff/Twitter

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.

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  • There is a long way to go. I honor and have a great deal of respect for the #YesWeCode programs, etc. helping black youth. We are known for using social media, code, and other forms of computer technology. Diversity problems have plagued Twitter for years. I do believe that during 2016 and beyond, we should build up more of our own institutions that deal with code and technology. If they won’t hire, then we should use our grassroots power to establish our own computer related institutions and companies. We respond to injustice by fighting back. We fight back by confronting oppression, setting up our own, demanding change, and helping our own via a sincere motivation. There are many qualified, talent black people who know about computer science and engineering. We shall see what the future of Twitter will be. The status quo is not a solution. It’s a hindrance to the goal that we desire. We want not only fair opportunities, workers’ rights, and justice. We want the structures of systematic racism and discrimination to end. The problem is not just individual. It is a systemic, structural problem. The system currently must end and be replaced if we are to see a truly fair society.

  • mywordsaremypower

    That 35% means they will hire a bunch of becky’s and the 11% is for people of colour to fight over. Yeah I’m not buying this bullshit for a minute, still keeping it just white enough for all the marshmallows not feeling they are in china town, the ghetto or even in the latino drug cartel etc. Could they win though if the appointed a person of colour in the role? People would either moan if that they gave the role to a person of colour a) to shut the people of colour up and say we are working on diversity see said person has been appointed head of diversity or b) They only got the role because they are [INSERT RACE HERE]. I would like to see how this pans out but always it seems more diversity means more Becky’s and Tiffany’s. I think it s best we start looking to build our own, instead of waiting for Tom and Becky to want to include us. Though they may eat sour grapes when the find out people of colour came together and created something better, white people can never handle competition well.

  • ♎Lauren♎

    When White peoples gets it wrong…..AGAIN!

  • vintage3000

    End of the day Twitter does not owe Black people anything, no one is forcing “Black Twitter” to use this platform so frequently. Speaking of which, BT is always so useful in creating pop culture memes; has it created one to discuss how they have helped make Twitter so successful yet this company has no plans to acknowledge Black Twitter’s input and creativity?

    I am not a coding nor marketing professional, but isn’t it feasible for a group of Black coding and marketing geniuses ( we know they exist) to work together and create another successful social media platform, as mentioned umpteen times before by others? I know that involves start-up money, there are Black people who have that too.

  • Rizzo

    what else can be expected from these individuals — it is their company. anything deviating from ‘their’ norm would be totally shocking