Seeking Diversity, Twitter Plans To Boost Female Employment By One Percentage Point

By Tracey Lien
Los Angeles Times.

Twitter committed itself Friday to boosting the share of female employees at the company to 35% from 34% by next year. In a global workforce of 4,100, that’s 41 more women.

Underrepresented ethnic groups — mostly, blacks and Latinos — make up 8% of its U.S. workforce. It wants to boost that figure to 9%.

If those numbers seem oddly specific and low, that’s because increasing employee diversity has been an ongoing struggle for tech companies, and saying it out loud — or, in Twitter’s case, publishing its diversity goals online for all to see — doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

But setting goals is a start, diversity experts say.

“Last year there was a trend to release [diversity] data, which was great,” said Melinda Epler, the founder of Change Catalyst, a platform that supports women entrepreneurs. “Setting goals is a next step in the right direction.”

Many diversity experts agree goal-setting clearly sends the message that companies are serious about diversity. But, like Epler, they can’t shake the modesty of the numbers.

In addition to lifting its overall female workforce by 1 percentage point, Twitter said it plans to boost women in technical jobs from 13% to 16%.

As for other underrepresented groups in its overall workforce, it plans to boost that number from 8% to 9%.
“That’s disappointing,” Epler said.

But it’s also illustrative of the challenge large companies face in changing the ratio.

“I bet you they’re benchmarking to two things,” said Silicon Valley angel investor and chief executive of photo editing service PicMonkey.com, Jonathan Sposato. “They’re probably benchmarking to their peers, like Facebook and Google, and they’re benchmarking to existing numbers,” he said.

“The numbers are probably not more aggressive because they’re currently really bad.”

It’s unclear exactly how Twitter will go about meeting even its modest goals. It could hire more women as it expands its workforce. Technically, though, it could lay off mostly white men if the company trims back its workforce, and meet its diversity goals without hiring anyone. Some investors are complaining that Twitter needs more cost control, and layoffs are conceivable. Twitter declined to discuss the subject.

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