You gotta wonder about the conversations (and rationalizations) that happen in Twitter’s corporate boardrooms. After a year in which the social media giant was widely and repeatedly condemned for its overwhelming whiteness, the company announced this week that it’s hired — brace yourself — a white man to lead its diversity initiatives.
It's one of those headlines that need the disclaimer: Not an Onion article.
[jump] As The New York Times reports, Jeffrey Siminoff, former head of diversity at Apple, will succeed Janet Van Huysse as Twitter’s vice president of diversity and inclusion. Fans of the new hire (i.e., fellow white dudes) point to Siminoff’s LGBT activism as evidence that he’s, you know, diverse — as if sexuality is a proxy for race or gender.
Critics, however, aren’t mollified.
“Only 3 percent of Twitter’s employees are black or Latino, according to publicly released numbers, and Twitter could have made a bold statement by hiring a woman or racial minority for what is ultimately a symbolic role,” Mark S. Luckie, the company’s former manager of journalism and news, writes on The Verge.
Luckie notes that while Siminoff’s diversity record at Apple wasn’t appalling — “Apple hired 65 percent more female employees, 50 percent more black employees, and 66 percent more Hispanic employees over last year” — neither was it totally transformative: 69 percent of Apple employees are male and 54 percent are white, Luckie reminds us.
The numbers are even worse at Twitter, where only two percent of the company’s employees are African-American and four percent are Hispanic or Latino.
In November, Twitter came under fire from Rev. Jesse Jackson, who pressured CEO Jack Dorsey to release data on the number of minorities laid off during an October housecleaning in which eight percent of the workforce was canned. (The layoffs were prompted, at least in part, by a lackluster revenue forecast.)
Also in November, a former top engineer at Twitter lambasted the company for not having “any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management.”
Four months ago, Van Huysse indicated on Twitter’s corporate blog (in a post entitled “We're committing to a more diverse Twitter”) that the company planned to increase the number of African-Americans and Hispanics in technology roles to nine percent and in leadership roles to six percent.
In hiring Siminoff — a qualified applicant, yes, but one who enshrines the status quo — the company has basically offered a big fuck you to both its own diversity mandates and to all those who want to see tech become less monochromatic.
Meet the new Twitter, same as the old Twitter.