Twitter unveils plans to reduce gaps in representation of women and minorities on staff

“We want the makeup of our company to reflect the vast range of people who use Twitter. Doing so will help us build a product to better serve people around the world.” This statement by Janet Van Huysse, Twitter’s Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion is contained in a recent blog post unveiling the company’s plan to reduce the gaps in representation of women and minorities on its staff.

Twitter’s rising importance in the media world cannot be denied. According to Twitter’s website there are 316 million monthly active users with 500 million Tweets sent per day. It serves as a relevant source of information for more and more people around the globe. Twitter’s growth as a news delivery channel led the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project to include news media Twitter feeds in the monitoring research for the first time. Efforts to tackle inequality within the Twitter workplace itself are a step forward.

Similar to other Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, Twitter has now published data on diversity in their workforce for 2015 and pledged to work on hiring more women and people with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Moreover Twitter announced specific goals to increase the number of women and minorities in its tech and leadership teams. While these goals are not drastically progressive, they at a minimum demonstrate some willingness to begin to correct the highly unrepresentative staffing.

Up until now, women make up 34% of the overall staff, 13% of tech and 22% of leadership positions, whereas underrepresented ethnic minorities in the U.S. hold 0% of leadership positions. The numbers are similar for Google (overall 30% women, 9% non-Whites or non-Asian) and Facebook (overall 32% women, 9% non-White or non-Asian). This represents a general trend in tech companies in the US, where women do not make up more than a third of the workforce and are even fewer in leadership positions, as a comparison of nine major tech companies and their employee diversity in the Fortune magazine shows. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology the number of women holding computing positions has increased by a mere 2% in the last six years (now 26%).

Twitter wants to change that. Van Huysse lists Twitter’s goals for 2016 as follows:

  • Increase women overall to 35%
  • Increase women in tech roles to 16%
  • Increase women in leadership roles to 25%
  • Increase underrepresented minorities overall to 11%*
  • Increase underrepresented minorities in tech roles to 9%*
  • Increase underrepresented minorities in leadership roles to 6%*

As the increases targeted by these numbers are rather modest, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Twitter will eventually achieve these goals. Interviewing a woman for the now vacant CEO position is an excellent start.

Source of chart: Janet Van Huysse's blog

Read also: Four charts that show the cost of sexism in the workplace

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Advancing gender equality in media

In my opinion, the most effective strategy to achieve gender-sensitive media is:

Increased gender-awareness training of media professionals
Greater action by audiences to hold their media accountable
Stricter enforcement of gender-focussed media codes and policies
More female journalists, editors and media house managers

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