Twitter's diversity report: white, male and just like the rest of Silicon Valley

Twitter

What’s white, male, straight, and occasionally hangs out with Asian guys? Silicon Valley.

Twitter became the latest tech giant to release its diversity report this week, and in news that will surprise few who have been paying attention, the geek squad is substantially less diverse that the cast of The Big Bang Theory.

Overall, 70% of Twitter’s employees are male. That number moves to 90% when you just count Twitter’s tech employees, and 79% if you’re looking only at its leadership. Fifty-nine percent of Twitter’s employees are white, 29% are Asian. Only 2% of employees describe themselves as black or African American; 3% as Hispanic or Latino. This is a stark contrast from the company’s user base. According to the Pew Research Internet Project 22% of online African Americans are Twitter users, compared with 16% of online whites.

We now have diversity reports from Twitter, Facebook and Google. They tell the same tale.

• Worldwide, Facebook’s employees are 69% male, 31% female. In tech, the gender gap was bigger again – 85% men to 15% women.

• In the US, 63% of Facebook’s employees were white, 24% Asian. Hispanics accounted for just 6% and African Americans 2%.

Google’s staff is 70% male and 30% female.

• Some 61% of its workforce is white, 30% Asian, Hispanics represent 3%, blacks 2%.

“We are committed to making inclusiveness a cornerstone of our culture,” Twitter said in its report. It might not be much, but it’s a significant shift in tone since CEO Dick Costolo’s Twitter spat with critics of its boys’ club mentality, which publicised the diversity issue ahead of its initial public offering last year.

Last year, Vivek Wadhwa criticised the “elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia” for the company’s all white, all male board, and its “male chauvinist thinking” in the New York Times. Costolo took to name-calling on Twitter, branding Wadhwa “the Carrot Top of academic sources”.

The two went on to have a somewhat more nuanced debate, in which Costolo said diversity was about more than “checking a box [and] saying ‘We did it!’” Twitter has also since appointed Marjorie Scardino, the highly regarded former Pearson chief executive, to its board –a sign, at least, that the company is serious about change even if it has a long, long way to go.

This is an industry-wide issue. About 49% of information technology businesses have no women on their boards, compared with 36% of the 2,770 largest public companies in the country, according to a report released by GMI Ratings last year. Apple’s Tim Cook has promised a diversity report in the near future. Don’t expect it to Think Different.

Google would like, in part, to blame the system – as will its peers, if you ask – pointing out lower rates of computer science degrees for women, and minorities' college education and graduation rates, as reasons for its homogeneity.

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a lobby group that pressed for Twitter to release the report, said he was pleased Silicon Valley was at last recognising it had a problem but he said the numbers showed the tech firms had issues across the board – not just in tech jobs.

The stats show that a skills gap in tech alone is no explanation for why so many jobs in marketing, sales and other areas were so disproportionately going to white, male candidates, he said. The lack of diversity across the companies suggest tech firms had issues across the board, and had failed to move far from the cultural roots even as they have become massive, international businesses. “It’s time for these companies to grow up and become part of the larger culture,” he said. “They are no longer running businesses in their parents’ garages.”

Robinson said the valley had clearly been in denial for a long time about its hiring culture. “These are people who like to think of themselves as liberal, progressive or at least open minded,” he said. “I would go there and they’d say ‘We bundled for Obama.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Dominic Rushe, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th July 2014 16.16 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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