Last year, when confronted with criticism about his appointment of an all-white, all-male Board of Directors, Dick Costolo – the CEO of Twitter – responded with a dismissive, joking tweet.
“The whole thing has to be about more than checking a box & saying ‘we did it!’,” he later typed.1
It’s been months now since Costolo’s defensive response and although Twitter later added a white woman to its Board,2 the company has yet to publicly address the failure to appoint a single Black person despite data that confirms that Black folks make up a disproportionate share of Twitter’s user-base.
Much worse, in recent weeks as other Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and LinkedIn took the historic first step to release depressing data about the racial and gender composition of their staffs, Twitter has remained silent — refusing to jump on the data-release-bandwagon.3
That’s why we’re joining with Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition to call on Twitter to do two things: 1) release its employee diversity numbers immediately and 2) signal its commitment to real inclusion by hosting a public community forum that addresses the company’s plan to recruit and retain more Black talent. Will you join us? It only takes a minute.
Twitter is unlikely to break any trends
To date, most of the data disclosures have confirmed that Silicon Valley prefers its workers to be male and either white or Asian.4, 5 And although Twitter is unlikely to break any diversity trends that have emerged, transparency and a public commitment to improving the recruitment and retention of Black employees are critical first steps.
Though its minority representation numbers may mirror other Silicon Valley tech companies, Twitter has a unique role to play in this national conversation about hiring discrimination. Via the cultural force known as “Black Twitter,” Twitter has been built off the creativity of Black people, though they’re not on the payroll. 6, 7, 8 As such, the company owes our community more — more transparency, and a more thoughtful, solutions-oriented approach that addresses its failure to be more inclusive without blaming Black people.
Shifting the blame
Unfortunately, many of the tech companies (and their pundits) have been quick to incorrectly blame a leaky “talent pipeline” for the extreme racial hiring disparities revealed by these disclosures; pointing to statistics about the dearth of computer science degrees awarded to Black men and women, and bragging about their own philanthropic-investments in tech education for minorities. Silicon Valley apologists are working to divert blame.
Completely ignoring the fact that Black people are also severely underrepresented in nontechnical Silicon Valley roles, these blame-shifting tactics are not only misleading, they also serve to reinforce the false and problematic narrative that Black people are simply “unqualified,” undeserving and not valuable — that Black-thought is unqualified, underserving, and not valuable.
We cannot allow a corporate culture that seems hell-bent on making excuses for its replication of tired “good ol’ boy” networks to malign the intellectual and creative capacities of Black people in the process.
Thanks and Peace,
–Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Aimee, Bhavik, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
July 17, 2014
1.”Twitter CEO Takes Fire Over All Male Board”, ValleyWag, 2013-07-10
2. “Twitter appoints first woman, Marjorie Scardino, to board of directors“, The Washington Post, 2013-11-15
3. “Some in Silicon Valley Publicize Diversity, While Others Shy Away“, U.S. News, 2014-06-18
4.”Silicon Valley Firms Are Even Whiter and More Male Than You Thought“, Mother Jones, 2014-05-29
5. “Status Update: Facebook not so diverse“, USA Today, 2014-06-26
6. “Black Twitter: A virtual community ready to hashtag out a response to cultural issues“, The Washington Post, 2014-01-20.
7. “Mama I Made It: Pew Poll Study Confirms The Existence of Black Twitter“, okayplayer, 2014-01-01
8. “Black Twitter FINALLY Gets Recognized…so that Twitter can Sell Ads“, ValleyWag, 2014-21-01