News

July 19, 2014

Rev. Jesse Jackson Petitions for Twitter Diversity Data

In recent months, tech giants Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have all released diversity (or lack therof) reports, but one firm has remained mum: Twitter.

Now, civil rights activists, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, are pushing for the micro-blogging service to release its workplace diversity statistics. In partnership with ColorofChange.org, Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition haslaunched a petition calling on Twitter to disclose its demographic data.

"Twitter must live up to its platform's transparency and join other industry leaders in voluntarily disclosing employee demographic data, sending a bright signal that inclusion and diversity are real priorities for the company," Jackson wrote in a letter accompanying the petition.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The social network would do well to cater to its African-American constituents, Jackson said, pointing to the "Black Twitter" population—a "cultural force" that often uses the platform to effect change.

2012 Pew Research Center study backs up Jackson's claims, reporting that the popular micro-blogging site counts about 20 percent of its users living in urban areas and 26 percent identifying as African American.

Jesse Jackson Silicon Valley 

But Silicon Valley's payroll doesn't mirror those numbers. Google's workforce consists of 70 percent men, about 61 percent of whom are white, while Facebook skews in much the same direction. The Yahoo boys club, meanwhile, totals 62 percent men, half of whom are white. The minority communities at those firms typically fall below the 5 percent threshold.

Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have all pledged to improve diversity, but execs like Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations at Google, blamed the search giant's lopsided diversity stats in part on the low rate of women earning computer science degrees (18 percent) and the modest number of blacks and Hispanics graduating college (10 percent)—let alone with a CS degree (fewer than 5 percent).

Jackson disagrees, saying that African Americans are also severely underrepresented in non-technical Silicon Valley roles, accusing companies of using misleading tactics and serving to "reinforce the false and problematic narrative that black people are simply 'unqualified,' undeserving and not valuable."

To help move the industry toward change, Jackson's Rainbow PUSH, alongside ColorOfChange and other like-minded organizations, urge folks to sign their petition.

"Twitter must commit to transparency, and making public commitment to improve the recruitment and retention of black employees is a critical first step," Jackson said. "But disclosure isn't enough."

Which is why the civil rights groups also want Twitter to join a public forum "to discuss the lack of racial diversity in Silicon Valley and potential solutions."

 

-source: http://uk.pcmag.com/social-networking/34187/news/rev-jesse-jackson-petitions-for-twitter-diversity