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Twitter’s small diversity gains result in cautious outlook for 2017

Twitter, like many other tech companies, is striving to improve diversity in the workplace. It’s an important issue for the firm, which consistently ranks as a diverse platform in terms of its user base. Twitter also boasts a self-professed socially aware CEO in the guise of Jack Dorsey (who can forget the #StayWoke t-shirt he wore on stage at a tech conference in 2016?).

Internally, however, it still hasn’t managed to reflect the inclusiveness found on its service (where conversations around #BlackLivesMatter, #SheInspiresMe and #OrlandoStrong have thrived), although it’s not for want of trying.

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In its latest diversity report, Twitter reveals the ground it gained last year in a number of departments. The good news is the company met, and in some cases exceeded, its diversity targets. The bad news is that it is still lacking when it comes to underrepresented minorities (non-whites and non-Asians), which make up 11 percent of its overall workforce — a meagre increase of just 1 percent from 2015. In technical roles, minorities increased to 9 percent, up from 7 percent in 2015, and 6 percent in leadership roles, from no representation whatsoever in the past. The numbers in Twitter’s EEO-1 report show that out of 47 executive positions, none are filled by African-Americans or Latinos. Additionally, out of 399 managerial roles, 9 are occupied by African-Americans and 14 by Latinos. The EEO-1 report is the employee demographic data that companies are required to provide to the department of labor.

Women fared better in terms of recruitment, with Twitter exceeding its goals in both overall female representation (which now stands at 37 percent) and leadership (30 percent, a laudable increase of 8 percent from 2015). Globally, in 2016, women filled all of Twitter’s open country head positions. On the other hand, Twitter could not meet its target of having 16 percent of women in technical roles, reaching 15 percent in the end — up 2 percent. Comparably, fellow digital platform Pinterest recently suffered the same fate, falling short of its target to have 30 percent of female engineers in its workforce by a considerable margin of 8 percent.

According to Twitter’s VP of inclusion and diversity Jeffrey Siminoff, the company pushed through a number of initiatives in 2016 both in regards to the hiring process and in terms of employee entitlements. Among its new ventures was a partnership with CODE2040 focussed on minority software engineering students, a dedicated university diversity recruiting function, and software-based innovation to increase the Twitter candidate pool. The company also updated its policy to provide up to 20 weeks paid leave to all parents globally.

Another first for Twitter in 2016 was its enabling of all new U.S. hires to self-identify as LGBTQ. Whilst noting that this data is currently limited due to its recent introduction, Twitter claims that of employees answering, 10 percent identified as LGBTQ.

For its 2017 goals, Twitter wants to reach 13 percent overall for underrepresented minorities, 11 percent technical, 8 percent leadership, and 15 percent non-technical. For women, it plans to reach 38 percent overall, 17 percent technical, and 31 percent leadership.

“We know that the effects of our actions — many of which were new for 2016 — cannot be immediate,” said Siminoff in his blog post. “We will continue to be broadly focused on inclusion, prioritizing intersectionality and specific underrepresented groups, and acting on different opportunities for our different business functions.”

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