Twitter sets goals toward making its workforce more diverse

On the heels of a similar move by Pinterest, Twitter has publicly released its hiring goals for improving the diversity of its workforce between now and 2016.

The social network announced Friday that it’s striving to boost representation in its overall workforce to 35 percent for women and 11 percent for minorities.

“We want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter,” said Janet Van Huysse, the company’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, in a blog post. “As we look ahead, we see opportunity rather than a challenge: an opportunity to build a platform and a company that will better serve the diverse community on Twitter and the increasingly diverse one at Twitter.”

Like many other tech giants in Silicon Valley and beyond, diversity has become a major issue. Twitter and other companies are vowing to make their male-dominated workforces more inclusive. On average, tech companies are about 70 percent male and white, according to the most recent self-reported statistics from Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Intel, which many say has been leading the way for workplace diversity, said earlier this month that while it has made some progress in achieving its 2015 goals, even more must be done.

In June, Facebook launched an initiative within several divisions requiring applicant pools for a job to include at least one minority. Google has also pledged $150 million to focus on diversity. And Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has said its workforce is 70 percent male, thinks the tech industry overall hasn’t done enough in terms of diversifying as well.

Twitter certainly has its work cut out since it first revealed its workplace demographics in a report in July 2014. At the time, the gender balance was cringe-worthy as 90 percent of all tech-skilled jobs at Twitter at that time were filled by male employees. The gap has only shrunk slightly to 87 percent male, 13 percent female.

Twitter is maintaining a pragmatic goal of boosting female representation in tech roles to 16 percent by next year. The microblogging service’s goals for placing more minorities (in the United States only) in tech and leadership roles are more conservative.

The latest figures reveal tech skilled jobs are filled overwhelmingly by white (56 percent) and Asian (37 percent) employees, with all others (primarily those of Hispanic and African-American descent) accounting for just single-digit points on the chart.

By 2016, Twitter’s goal also calls for increasing minorities in tech jobs in the US to 9 percent and in leadership roles to 6 percent.

Twitter said it has been working with a number of programs nationwide to improve these statistics. The company noted it also plans to recruit at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-serving institutions this fall.

“We’ve outlined what we believe progress should look like,” Van Huysse said. “We expect to come back to you next year and show we’ve delivered, and to be held accountable to it!”

Twitter should be praised for announcing such goals to diversify its ranks, said Joelle Emerson, CEO and founder of Paradigm, a startup that works with tech companies on diversity. Now it’s matter of executing them.

“This is a big step for Twitter, perhaps this is a sign of where they want to be overall. I hope this is a continuing trend for the industry,” said Emerson, an employment lawyer whose company is helping more than a dozen tech companies, including digital-scrapbooking site Pinterest, become more diverse.

Twitter’s diversity goals also come as the microblogger is being sued for gender discrimination by an ex-employee. Tina Huang, who worked as a software engineer for twitter from 2009 to 2014, accuses the company of using a “subjective, secretive promotion process” that favors men. Her suit claims there were at least 50 other women who were similarly affected by Twitter’s policies.

A version of this story was first published on ZDNet as “Twitter shares 2016 diversity goals for hiring women, underrepresented minorities.”


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