What does it mean when one of the largest social media sites is called out for its lack of diversity by one of its former employees?
Earlier this week, Leslie Miley — the only black engineer in a leadership position at Twitter, according to Tech Crunch — decided to leave the company due to its diversity issues.
In a post he published on Medium, Miley criticized the company’s practices, citing his own personal experience and data gathered from a Pew Research Center that found large occupational disparities for blacks and Hispanics at Twitter.
“I began to understand the challenge of improving diversity when the 1st Twitter Diversity report illustrated just how much work needed to be done,” Miley wrote. “This is illustrated by the fact that even tho African-Americans and Hispanics make up > 30% of Twitters (US) monthly active users, <5% make up engineering and product management combined.”
Miley recalled the hardship of coming to terms with being the sole representation of managerial support at the company and that any help to add more to the ensemble would be to no avail:
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.
He also cites how when notable black speakers like Jesse Jackson came to the office, the representative employee resource group for blacks (@blackbirds) would be denied invitations. When esteemed women like Hillary Clinton came to the office, Miley noted, not only was the resource group for women in engineering notified but they were also given the opportunity to meet with her privately.
“Why wouldn’t there be a concerted effort to invite the few African American employees to these events? Is it because, as one colleague told me, ‘they forgot that you were black?’” Miley asks. He continues
Is a prerequisite to working in tech as a minority that one is expected to, in the eyes of the majority, sublimate your racial identity to ensure a cultural fit? In attempting to achieve the appropriate level of blackness that makes me palatable to tech, had I unwittingly erased the importance of maintaining my blackness in a sea of white faces?
Miley worked extensively on trying to find a solution for better hiring processes for people of color. Following the return of Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter, Miley pitched a job proposal to focus on increasing diversity in engineering to the Sr. VP of Eng. The idea was all but shut down, and an unrealistic approach of name sorting was suggested that Miley couldn’t stand by.
“With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management,” says Miley, who still draws value from his time at Twitter, “From this position, Twitter may find it difficult to make the changes to culture and product.”