Graphic from Twitter Inc. about its workforce

Twitter might have been used by various ethnic groups around the world to spread word of democracy actions. But here at home its workforce is hardly representative, as a democracy should be, of its constituents, Twitter noted this week.

Following other tech giants, Twitter voluntarily released figures on the diversity of its workforce. And like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo before it, Twitter revealed that its workers are predominantly white males and Asian males.

Among its total workforce, 70 percent are male and 88 percent  white or Asian.  Among its tech workers, 90 percent are male and 92 percent are white or Asian. Only 3 percent of its employees are Hispanic and only two percent African American. Another three percent are mixed race.  That makes its workforce similar to the other tech giants, although slightly more male.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.57.15 PM

data tables provided by Twitter

But Twitter acknowledges that it wishes to be more diverse and that it would be good business if its employees reflected its customers.

“At Twitter, we have a goal to reach every person on the planet. We believe that goal is more attainable with a team that understands and represents different cultures and backgrounds,” wrote Janet  Van Huysse, the company’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, on the company blog.

“It makes good business sense that Twitter employees are representative of the vast and varied backgrounds of our users around the world. We also know that it makes good business sense to be more diverse as a workforce – research shows that more diverse teams make better decisions, and companies with women in leadership roles produce better financial results,” she continued.

But she concluded “like our peers, we have a lot of work to do.”

Tech companies have been under pressure to diversify their workforces this year, even as a so-called “pipeline” of computer tech students at U.S. universities is heavily white and Asian and decidedly male. About 18 percent of U.S. computer science majors are women. Only about 9 percent of computer science and engineering majors are African American or Hispanic, according to the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

Twitter has joined Google and others in supporting tech training programs for women, such as the Girls Who Code and inhouse Twitter groups such as WomEng, a women’s engineering group. It also supports Technovation and Black Girls Code, which encourage and train girls still in middle and high school to excel in computer science. Google is the major supporter of Oakland’s Hack the Hood and all the tech companies are offering internships with CODE2040.

Still, the Level Playing Field Institute, an Oakland nonprofit devoted to help diversify the tech industry, said it is incumbent upon Twitter to represent its customers.

 “It is disheartening that while African Americans and Latinos over index as a percentage of Twitter’s users, this demographic is extremely underrepresented in its workforce. Releasing this data is the start of an important transformation in Silicon Valley,” said Dr. Jarvis Sulcer, executive director of the Level Playing Field Institute. “Twitter’s diversity data further illustrates that the tech industry is overwhelmingly white and male.”
The Level Playing Field Institute gave credit to Twitter for releasing the information, however, since it is not required to do so.
“Transparency is the first step towards addressing the significant racial and gender disparities that exist in Silicon Valley,” stated Dr. Allison Scott, director of research and evaluation at the Level Playing Field Institute.
She, like others, acknowledged some truth to what the companies have been saying: that the pipeline of technically trained people graduating from college is thin.
“It is essential to fill the tech pipeline with more diverse talent and invest in programs that prepare underrepresented students for tech careers.  Moreover, companies must reflect on the workplace culture that pushes some out of the pipeline and blocks other from even entering.”