Out of Twitter’s 2,910 U.S. employees, only 49 (1.7 percent) are black, and that fact has black activists led by Rev. Jesse Jackson racing to condemn the company.
Twitter’s tiny black workforce comes despite a vocal pledge by the company to boost its diversity quotient. A year ago, the company announced a plan to build “a Twitter we can be proud of” by increasing the number of women and non-Asian minorities hired at the company.
Numbers for other minorities are similarly low. There are only 68 Hispanic workers and a puny three American Indians.
Twitter’s employee makeup is hardly unique in the tech world, but the company has attracted greater attention because surveys show it is disproportionately popular with minorities. Twenty-seven percent of blacks and 25 percent of Hispanics use Twitter, compared to just 21 percent of whites. Among young people, the gap is even bigger, as 40 percent of blacks aged 18-29 are active Twitter users compared to 28 percent of whites. Activists claim that if minorities are more likely to use Twitter, then they also deserve a disproportionate share of its jobs.
“African Americans use social media more than others, the corporations continue to build and profit from that, so it is especially problematic that they do not have an employee base that in any way reflects its users,” Color of Change managing director Arisha Hatch told the Guardian. “They have really failed on this.”
Jackson added that the lack of black employees isn’t due to a lack of qualified applicants.
“Black people are greater users of the product and capable of doing the jobs, but there has not been an adequate commitment to hire, train and maintain [black people],” he said.
Data doesn’t necessarily back up Jackson’s claim, though. While blacks are about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they earn only 4.5 percent of computer science degrees from leading programs. Much of the remaining gap could be explained by statistical lag, immigrant hiring, and a preference by recruiters for top-tier schools such as Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley (two of Twitter’s top feeders).
Jackson, though, argues that companies are simply ignoring blacks.
“They hire people they know, they trust and like,” he said. “We’re not in that the circle.”
In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) held Wednesday, Jackson elaborated this argument, claiming that companies would currently rather hire immigrants than equally-skilled blacks:
My nephew was Oakland. So you’d think he’d be on the priority list. But these companies are more focused on bringing in H1B visas than in training youth in Oakland or San Francisco. So we challenge them to develop youth at home. He’s just an example of a qualified person who was overlooked.
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