Twitter suffered a very dismal third quarter for 2015, with Twitter stock currently down 1.8 percent. And between Q2 and Q3, Twitter only increased its monthly active users by 1.25 percent.
Meanwhile, Twitter now also finds itself in the midst of a very public diversity problem. Following CEO Jack Dorsey’s decision to lay off 9 percent of Twitter’s employees, Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote a letter to Dorsey regarding the layoffs and expressed his concern that the decision targeted minorities, who are already severely underrepresented at the company.
“Twitter already has an appallingly low number and percentage of African Americans and Latinos working at your company, around 60 total in the workforce and zero in your boardroom and c-suite leadership,” he wrote. “We are concerned that a disproportionate number and percentage of Blacks and Latinos were adversely affected in your recent layoffs.”
Twitter’s diversity problem begins right at the top. According to the company’s leadership page, of its 10 executive team members, only two are women; the remaining eight are white men.
And the pattern continues all the way down. A blog post published to Twitter’s website in August (incidentally, the post is titled “We’re committing to a more diverse Twitter”) shows that its overall workforce is 59 percent white. When broken down by tech, non-tech and leadership positions, whites always account for at least half of the jobs. Overall, Hispanics represent 4 percent and Blacks just 2 percent of the staff. In tech, Hispanics make up 3 percent of employees, while Blacks account for just 1 percent. Both groups represent 4 percent of employees in non-tech positions. This is compared to 56 percent in tech and 62 percent in non-tech for white employees.
When it comes to leadership, the only two groups represented at all are whites (72 percent) and Asians (28 percent).
Jackson made several requests for the company to disclose how many minorities were affected by the layoffs. Each time, a spokesperson told him minorities were not disproportionately targeted but did not provide specific numbers. Jackson believes the public has a right to the information.
“We will insist on it,” he said. “So far, Twitter has been the most resistant to give us their data and then they are giving us resistance to giving us this additional data.”
The fact that so many Black people use Twitter yet represent next to no one on the staff is another concern for Jackson. Black Twitter users have definitely made their presence on the social media site known, which has resulted in the creation of “Black Twitter,” or #BlackTwitter. And a Pew Research Center poll this summer revealed that just 20 percent of whites said they use Twitter, compared to 28 percent for both Blacks and Hispanics.
“We over-index too much with Twitter for Twitter not to have a business plan or strategy for inclusion,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, at least one Black employee was laid off and went public with his story. Leslie Miley, who served as the only Black engineering manager until he was let go, wrote a detailed in a Medium post to describe experience working at the company for three years and advocating for diversity. He also explained why he believes that the company’s stagnant user growth could be associated with its diversity problem.
“This is why Twitter is stuck at 320 million users,” Miley said prior to the publication of his blog post. “It doesn’t have people making product decisions who understand the use case of the most prolific communities on Twitter.”
In 2014 and 2015, the percent of adults who reported using Twitter remained at 23 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Meanwhile, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram all saw growth by at least 1 percent.
Miley also pointed out Twitter’s repeated assertions that diversity is a top priority and the fact that there was never any progress made. “Leadership keeps citing the pipeline when the data does not support it,” Miley said. “They continue to churn out ethnic and racial minorities and women but still claim a commitment to diversity.”
Twitter is not the only company in the tech field with such an extreme lack of diversity among its ranks. Facebook and Google have also shown zero progress in diversity. And just last year, Microsoft’s CEO said that women should rely on karma in order to move up in their careers.