Diversity at Twitter: Former engineer writes about how it won’t be so easy

Twitter is one of the few tech companies that has publicly shared its goals for the diversification of its workforce. But a black engineering manager who left Twitter last week is speaking up about how that might be difficult.

“Hiring Committee meetings… became contentious when I advocated for diverse candidates,” Leslie Miley wrote in a Medium post published Tuesday. “Candidates who were dinged for not being fast enough to solve problems, not having internships at ‘strong’ companies and who took too long to finish their degree. Only after hours of lobbying would they be hired.”

Miley — who reportedly was laid off but said he had already planned to leave — wrote that he loved Twitter and thinks the company’s stated diversity goals are important. But his post indicates he became doubtful he could help the company’s diversity efforts.

“Personally, 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,” Miley wrote in his post. “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.”

Miley also said the company’s black employee resource group wasn’t informed about or invited to diversity-related happenings at Twitter, including when the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to speak at the company’s shareholder meeting. Jackson has been pushing Silicon Valley companies to boost the diversity of their workforces.

Miley isn’t the only former black employee who’s written about his time at Twitter. In September, the company’s former manager of journalism and news Mark S. Luckie wrote a Medium post titled “What it’s actually like to be a Black employee at a tech company.” Luckie wrote about a couple of things Miley also addressed, including hiring from the same limited pools.

“The most impactful detriment to diversity in Silicon Valley is the idea of ‘culture fit’,” Luckie wrote. “Employees are actively encouraged to suggest friends or former colleagues for open roles.” What’s more, he wrote that “candidates are pooled from the same universities. The Stanfords and Berkeleys of the world, which themselves suffer from low numbers of enrolled students of color, are considered the gateway to top talent.”

As for Miley — whose LinkedIn profile shows stints at Google, Apple and elsewhere — his post ended on a hopeful note. He expressed faith in Jack Dorsey, who’s now on his second CEO stint at Twitter: “It is my belief that Jack understands the use case of Twitter better than anyone else, understands how diversity can be additive to growth, and is committed to making that happen.”

Twitter’s most recent diversity report shows its U.S. workforce is 2 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic. Women make up 34 percent of its workforce. As Queenie Wong wrote in August, the company in 2016 wants to have 11 percent of its U.S. workforce be composed of underrepresented minorities, and 35 percent women.


Update: This post previously stated Jackson spoke at Twitter’s offices. He spoke at Twitter’s shareholder meeting.


Photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group


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  • alrui

    Diversity is perversity!

  • Cage

    So diversity only = black?

  • syzygy321

    Diversity is code for -meritocracy and excellence no longer matter.