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Top Black Engineer Blasts Twitter's Lack Of Diversity

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/11/2015 Shane Ferro

Twitter say it's committed to creating a more diverse workforce, but, like the rest of the tech industry, it has yet to succeed. This week, a former employee offered a glimpse into the beleaguered microblogging company's struggle to be more inclusive.

"With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management," Twitter Engineering Manager Leslie Miley wrote on Medium on Tuesday. Miley was among those laid off from the company in October, although he made clear his intention to leave before the company announced the cuts, according to TechCrunch

Elaborating about his time as one of Twitter's few black engineers, Miley critiqued the company for failing to push back against unconscious bias as it seeped into hiring practices and culture:

Personally, a particularly low moment was having my question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity answered by the Sr. VP of Eng at the quarterly Engineering Leadership meeting. When he responded with “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.” I then realized I was the only African-American in Eng leadership.

There are few African-American or Latino employees in any part of the company -- and none at the top, according to the company's own diversity data, released in August.

This, however, is not just a Twitter problem. It's a tech industry problem, as Miley noted in a separate post, written earlier in October, about diversity in his field. Miley presents a theory as to why this is the case: It's about pattern matching. Successful people think future successful people are going to look like them (or the people they see around them). When a company hires for a specific pattern, it's not a surprise that everyone begins to look the same.

This is why Miley thinks that younger tech companies are actually less diverse than the older companies. From Miley's post: 

This shows up in recruiting organizations targeting specific schools, employee referrals, and promotions of like minded individuals. Yahoo > Google > LinkedIn > FaceBook > Twitter. After Yahoo each of these companies’ diversity numbers have been worse than the company that followed them. I believe this is because Google recruited from Yahoo, LinkedIn from Google, and so on. Each subsequent company becomes less diverse due to the sub-conscious amplification of educational, cultural and work history biases.

Twitter, meanwhile, is sticking to its diversity commitment.

A spokesperson told The Huffington Post by email that the company is "committed to making substantive progress in making Twitter more diverse and inclusive. This commitment includes the expansion of our inclusion and diversity programs, diversity recruiting, employee development, and resource group-led initiatives."

CEO Jack Dorsey fired 336 employees -- about 8 percent of Twitter's workforce -- just two weeks before the firm posted a disappointing revenue forecast and user growth that was weaker than expected. 

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