Science and Tech


What's Twitter's Real Diversity Problem?

After demands for Twitter to release its diversity numbers, the company has finally done so. The numbers show it's not very diverse, surprising few.
Posted at 12:46 PM, Jul 24, 2014

​Twitter's long-awaited diversity numbers are out, and it seems the company isn't exactly what you'd call, well ... diverse. (Via ​Getty Images)

Twitter released those numbers Thursday, and it turns out a whopping 90 percent of the company is white or Asian, and 70 percent of employees are men. (Via Getty Images)

But that news didn't seem to come as much of a surprise to most outlets.

TechCrunch ran the headline, "Twitter’s Diversity Report Is More Of The Same," referring to similar reports from Google and Yahoo and highlighting the general lack of diversity in the tech sector. 

For its part, Google pointed to that systemic lack of diversity as a reason its staff is so homogenous, citing statistics that say women earn only 18 percent of computer science degrees in the U.S. and blacks and Hispanics less than 10 percent each.  

But some analysts say that argument is a bit of a cop-out. It doesn't seem to be a question of just race —large portions of the tech companies in question are made up of Asian employees. But it also doesn't seem to be a question of just gender. Instead, critics point to a culture in the tech community that believes it's a meritocracy, when that might not always be the case. 

TheWall Street Journal pointed to hiring practices and cited speakers at a venture capital conference earlier this year who argued, "People in positions of power ... too often get comfortable with their immediate familiars and fail to take a wider view of talented people in the industry and world."

And some commentators point to the fact that it's often not something hirers are conscious of.  

"So we all have these biases, and I've found in companies that I've worked with that you want people like you and you don't even know it." (Via Bloomberg)

Twitter's numbers come after a petition from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who argued the company's board was unrepresentative, writing, "The company has yet to publicly address the failure to appoint a single Black person to its board despite data that confirms that Black folks make up a disproportionate share of Twitter's user-base." (Via Rainbow Push Coalition)

And the gender gap is worth noting as well, with initiatives such as Girls Who Code popping up to encourage more women to go into the tech sector. 

That seems like something of an uphill battle with high-profile reports of harassment and sexism in popular startups such as Snapchat and Tinder. (Via The Washington Post, The Guardian)

Twitter has said it is committed to increasing its diversity and pointed to a number of pro-diversity organizations it supports.