UPDATE: Twitter releases workforce data

“Creative social media mass action matters. Our campaign with Color of Change has resulted in Twitter’s decision to release their data,” Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. announced on July 23. “Over 25,000 petitions were delivered to Twitter this past weekend demanding that they release their workforce data. While slow to release these paltry and pathetic numbers, it’s a step in the right direction.

“Now it’s time to set goals, targets and timetables – to partner with African Americans, Latinos and people of color in ‘fair trade.’ We over-index on use; let’s be partners at all levels.

“Our interest is not in protest, but in partnership so everyone can win.

“African Americans represent money, market, talent and location. No one should be locked out. When everyone is ‘in,’ everyone wins.

“There is no talent deficit; there’s an opportunity deficit.

“This is another step in the right direction to rectify the lack of inclusion and diversity in Silicon Valley.”

by Butch Wing

This week, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Color of Change launched a Twitter-based social media and online petition campaign to hundreds of thousands of their subscribers demanding that Twitter release its EEO-1 workforce diversity inclusion data and convene a direct dialogue with SF Bay Area community partners on solutions and strategies.

Jesse Jackson's Silicon Valley anti-exclusion campaign graphic 0714Ironically, the two organizations will utilize Twitter and other social media tools to spread the campaign nationally and worldwide. Hopefully they will not resort to purchasing views on youtube though. On Friday at the NetRoots Nation conference in Detroit, Color of Change led a “Black Twitter” plenary session where activists pushed out the petition campaign over Twitter and social media.

Twitter continues to resist this appeal for change, transparency and corporate responsibility. The lack of inclusion of Blacks, Latinos and women in technology is deplorable. Twitter must lean in and join in – release your EEO-1 workforce data.

Responding to Rainbow PUSH and others, Google voluntarily released workforce data. Rainbow PUSH then sent letters appealing to 20 tech companies, including Twitter, to follow suit. Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook have since posted their data; Intel, HP, Microsoft and Cisco post data on their websites. Pandora, eBay and Apple have indicated they will release soon.

A recent Pew study found that African Americans “over index” on Twitter – 26 percent of Black internet users, compared to 14 percent of white users and 19 percent of Hispanics. If Blacks and Latinos “use” Twitter, certainly the company can include us on their boards and in their c-suite leadership and workforce. Why don’t they? Releasing their data will tell the story.

Rev. Jackson stated: “Twitter is among the industry’s most visionary voices, and you can lead the way forward in transforming the industry to mirror the America you depend upon for talent and customers. Inclusion leads to growth, and when there is growth, everybody wins.

“There should be nothing to hide. Transparency is a critical value necessary to maintain the trust and confidence of your consumers and the general community. Silicon Valley and the tech industry, at their best, can be a tremendously positive change agent; at your worst, you can hold on to old patterns that exclude people of color and women from opportunity.

“You have demonstrated that you can solve some of the most challenging complex problems in the world. Inclusion is a complex problem – if we put our collective minds to it, we can solve this one, too.”

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change stated: “Although not on the payroll, Twitter has been built off the creativity of Black people and owes our community a transparent conversation about the state of diversity at the corporation. Disclosure of employee data is an important first step, but we hope – given the growing power of Black Twitter – that the company will take seriously the call to recruit and retain more Black employees at every level of the corporate structure.”

Rev. Jackson stated: “Twitter is among the industry’s most visionary voices, and you can lead the way forward in transforming the industry to mirror the America you depend upon for talent and customers. Inclusion leads to growth, and when there is growth, everybody wins.”

Last year, when confronted with criticism about his appointment of an all-white, all-male board of directors Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, responded with a dismissive, joking tweet: “The whole thing has to be about more than checking a box & saying ‘we did it!’,” he typed.

It’s been months now and the company has yet to publicly address the failure to appoint a single Black person to its board despite data that confirms that Black folks make up a disproportionate share of Twitter’s user-base.

“Silicon Valley and the tech industry, at their best, can be a tremendously positive change agent; at your worst, you can hold on to old patterns that exclude people of color and women from opportunity.”

Responding to Rev. Jackson and Rainbow PUSH’s digital initiative and public appeal, other Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn took the historic first step to release depressing data about the racial and gender composition of their staffs, Twitter has remained silent – and has resisted and refused to publicly disclose its EEO-1 workforce diversity inclusion data.

Twitter is unlikely to break any trends

To date, most of the data disclosures have confirmed that Silicon Valley prefers its workers to be male and either white or Asian – Blacks comprising just 1-2 percent and Latinos 3-4 percent of the workforce. [FN5]

Twitter must commit to transparency. Making a public commitment to improving the recruitment and retention of Black employees is a critical first step.

But disclosure isn’t enough. That’s why we’re also calling on Twitter to work with Color Of Change, Rainbow PUSH and our allies to host a forum with Color of Change and Rainbow PUSH to discuss the lack of racial diversity in Silicon Valley and potential remedies and solutions.

Twitter has a very unique role to play in this national conversation about hiring discrimination. Although not on the payroll, Twitter’s platform – via the cultural force known as “Black Twitter” – has been built off the creativity of Black people and, as such, the company owes our community more – more transparency, and a more thoughtful solutions-oriented approach that addresses its failure to be more inclusive without blaming Black people.

Shifting the blame

Unfortunately, many of the tech companies – and their pundits – have been quick to incorrectly blame a leaky “talent pipeline” for the extreme racial hiring disparities. While they point to statistics about the dearth of computer science degrees awarded to Black men and women and brag about their own philanthropic investments in tech education for minorities, Silicon Valley apologists are working to divert blame.

Completely ignoring the fact that Black people are also severely underrepresented in nontechnical Silicon Valley roles, these tactics are misleading, and also serve to reinforce the false and problematic narrative that Black people are simply “unqualified,” undeserving and not valuable – that Black thought is unqualified, underserving and not valuable.

We cannot allow a corporate culture that seems hell-bent on making excuses for its replication of tired “good ol’ boy” networks to malign the intellectual and creative capacities of Black people in the process.

“At its best, Silicon Valley can be a tremendously positive change agent for the world,” observed Rev. Jackson. “At its worst, it can hold on to old patterns that exclude people of color and women from opportunity and advancement. Silicon Valley and the tech industry must transform itself to mirror the America it depends upon for talent and customers.”

We cannot allow a corporate culture that seems hell-bent on making excuses for its replication of tired “good ol’ boy” networks to malign the intellectual and creative capacities of Black people in the process.

Pandora’s decision to release its workforce data

Just weeks ago, Rainbow PUSH made a direct and public appeal for Silicon Valley technology companies to release their EEO-1 reports and workforce data in the near future. On July 15, Pandora positively responded and committed to release its workforce data.

Pandora joins a growing list of companies – Intel, HP, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco and others – that are confronting the lack of diversity and inclusion, with integrity and transparency. This is a step in the right direction, and we commend Pandora for their commitment to transparency, corporate accountability and their desire to create a strong, inclusive company.

“Pandora is based in Oakland, the ‘rainbow’ city of the West Coast, with a mixed African American, Latino, Asian and white population and a proud music and digital arts tradition,” noted Rev. Jackson. “It is significant that Pandora – an Internet music company – based its headquarters here and chooses to build a company that reflects this community.

“Rainbow PUSH and I look forward to forging key partnerships with Pandora to expand African American and Latino participation, not just at the workforce level but also on its board of directors and C-suite level leadership. Blacks and people of color – yes, we know music and the music industry; if Pandora searches in the right places, it can find us.”

“Pandora is based in Oakland, the ‘rainbow’ city of the West Coast, with a mixed African American, Latino, Asian and white population and a proud music and digital arts tradition,” noted Rev. Jackson. “It is significant that Pandora – an Internet music company – based its headquarters here and chooses to build a company that reflects this community.

CEO Brian McAndrews of Pandora said in his letter to Rev. Jackson: “Thank you for reaching out. We were excited to hear from you because we have been discussing our own path towards transparency and amplifying our efforts around building a more diverse workforce … We hear your urge for data transparency … There is no doubt that knowledge leads to awareness, and to actions.”

Also, eBay and Apple indicated that they, too, will soon release their EEO-1 workforce data. But the numbers tell the story of the tech industry.

Blacks and Latinos are being left out of the technology revolution. Facebook reports that its overall workforce is just 4 percent Latino and 2 percent Black; Yahoo, 4 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Black; LinkedIn 4 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Black. The tech industry is perhaps the worst industry in the nation for locking out Blacks and Latinos from participation and opportunity.

So Rainbow PUSH will continue to monitor the progress of the technology industry. “They must set specific, measurable goals, targets and timetables, just like they do other priority business lines,” Rev. Jackson insisted. “Rainbow PUSH will continue to press other firms to confront reality and release their EEO-1 and workforce data. We will measure their results and hold companies publicly accountable.”

Rainbow PUSH is working with companies, educators and students to build an effective pipeline from Black and Latino communities to jobs in the tech industry. Google, HP, Facebook and Intel all participated in the Rainbow PUSH Annual Conference in Chicago, June 28-July 2 to forge new strategies and partnerships.

“Silicon Valley and the tech industry has demonstrated that it can solve the most challenging complex problems in the world,” declared Rev. Jackson. “Inclusion is a complex problem – if we put our collective minds to it, we can solve it, too. When women lean in, so must Blacks and Latinos move forward.

“Everyone must be included. It’s time the boards of directors and C-suites and the workforce of technology companies begin to reflect its customer base.”

“Silicon Valley and the tech industry has demonstrated that it can solve the most challenging complex problems in the world,” declared Rev. Jackson. “Inclusion is a complex problem – if we put our collective minds to it, we can solve it, too.”

At its best, Silicon Valley can be a tremendously positive change agent for the world; at its worst, it can hold on to old patterns that exclude people of color and women from opportunity and advancement. Rev. Jackson concluded, “Silicon Valley must evolve and expand to look like America and mirror American values and principles – we must even the playing field and play by one set of rules.”

Butch Wing can be reached at bwing@rainbowpush.org. To learn more, see the USA Today article, “Civil rights activists target Twitter over diversity.”

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