Jesse Jackson Wants Racial Data About Twitter Layoffs. Twitter Plays Dumb.

Twitter has a diversity problem, like so many tech companies, and this week the social media giant’s overwhelming whiteness was very publicly taken to task.

As USA Today reports, Rev. Jesse Jackson is pressuring Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to release data about the number of minorities laid off during the company’s recent purge. (Last month, Dorsey canned 336 employees — 8 percent of the company’s workforce — just two weeks before Twitter posted a lukewarm revenue forecast.)

In a letter to Dorsey, Jackson wrote:

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Twitter already has an appallingly low number and percentage of African Americans and Latinos working at the company, around 60 total in the workforce and zero in your boardroom and c-suite leadership. We are concerned that a disproportionate number and percentage of Blacks and Latinos were adversely affected in your recent layoffs.

Per USA Today, Twitter’s VP of diversity and inclusion assured Jackson that minorities were not disproportionately affected by the layoffs, although hard data wasn’t offered as evidence. 

“We will insist on it,” Jackson said. “So far Twitter has been the most resistant to give us their data and then they are giving us resistance to giving us this additional data.”

Twitter itself is abuzz today after a former top engineer at the company — one of the few African-American employees — published a post on Medium excoriating Twitter’s empty rhetoric about diversity.

Leslie Miley, who was laid off last month (although he says he had planned to leave anyway), noted that, “With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management.”

He went on to describe a “particularly low moment” when he confronted company executives about their commitment to hiring minorities:

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.

In August, Twitter released diversity data indicating that only two percent of the company’s employees were then African-American; four percent were Hispanic or Latino; and 59 percent were white. Twitter didn’t buck the tech industry’s brogrammer trend, either: 66 percent of the company’s employees were male.

A Twitter rep told Huffington Post 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.”

Maybe there's a lesson here: The more often a company touts its commitment to diversity, the more white it is. 

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