Twitter's Workforce Diversity Improves, Goals Raised For 2017

Twitter Inc. is showing other Silicon Valley firms it's possible to set public goals for a more diverse workforce and actually meet them, especially if those goals are modest. 

In December, 30 percent of the people in Twitter's leadership positions—defined as those director-level and above—were women, the San Francisco-based company said Thursday. That compares with 22 percent in 2015—and a goal of 25 percent. Twitter's technical workforce was 9 percent underrepresented minorities, which met the company's stated goal and was a gain from 7 percent the prior year. 

Silicon Valley companies have been hesitant to set numbers to their broad efforts to diversify their workforces, fearing greater scrutiny. The industry has struggled to address the problem, given how much new hiring tends to rely on personal connections and fitting a company culture. Pinterest was one of the first to set quotas for its new hires. This year, the image-sharing site said it met two of them and is lowering the target for the third, because it was challenging to meet.

"We know that the effects of our actions — many of which were new for 2016 — cannot be immediate,'' Twitter said in a blog post. "We are focused on sustained efforts that will help us draw more diverse talent, create great experiences and careers, and foster a culture of belonging that fully lives up to the spirit of community on Twitter itself."

The company employs about 3,500 people after announcing in October it would cut 9 percent of its jobs. Twitter declined to disclose the size of its employee groups.

Twitter said having a diverse workforce is important to reflect the needs of a social media site that is frequently used for minority activism such as #BlackLivesMatter. It has partnered with outside groups for advice and support. Still, the company said it expects the pace of progress is likely to be slow.

The company this year plans to boost women employees to 38 percent from 37 percent, women in technical roles to 17 percent from 15 percent and underrepresented minorities to 13 percent from 11 percent. 

For comparison, Facebook Inc. reported that women make up 33 percent of its workforce. The company's technical employees are 17 percent women while 1 percent of the tech workers were black and 3 percent were Latino.

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