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Twitter gets more diverse, but women and minorities still lag

The social network meets its diversity goals for 2016, but acknowledges it still has more work to do.

Like many Silicon Valley companies, Twitter has vowed to make its workforce more diverse.

The social network thinks it's making progress. Its evidence? Twitter said Thursday it beat its 2016 diversity goals, with slight gains in its representation of women and minorities.

Twitter said 37 percent of its 3,000 employees are women, higher than its 2016 goal of 35 percent. Women in leadership positions are now at 30 percent, compared to its goal of 25 percent. Underrepresented minorities make up 11 percent of the overall staff and 9 percent of the company's tech roles, hitting 2016 goals.

Twitter's 2017 goal to increase the number of women and minority workers projects incremental change.

Twitter

Twitter's update continues the trend of Silicon Valley companies releasing annual diversity reports for the sake of transparency. It also comes as the issue of inclusion in tech remains a hot topic. There's increasing demand for companies to go beyond making promises and reporting incremental changes related to their hiring and retention of women and minorities.

Twitter's current workforce in the United States is 3 percent African-American and 4 percent Hispanic, virtually the same as 2015. The social network reported that 2 percent of African-Americans and 3 percent of Hispanics working at Twitter hold leadership positions, compared to 74 percent for whites and 20 percent for Asians.

Jeffrey Siminoff, the company's head of inclusion and diversity, acknowledged the company needs to do more.

"We know that the effects of our actions -- many of which were new for 2016 -- cannot be immediate," he said in a 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."

Twitter's projected diversity goals for 2017 include slight increases to boost women and minorities working at the social network.

Twitter employees are also encouraged to refer diverse candidates. The company has been partnering with Paradigm, which works to help diversify tech companies, by participating in training to prevent unconscious bias. Other tech companies, including Pinterest and Intel, conduct similar training for employees.

"Twitter had a unique interest in tracking the long-term impact of their trainings, allowing us to learn that content designed to both raise awareness and to manage bias resulted in actual behavioral change in employees," Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson said in a statement.

Longtime civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been urging tech companies to diversify, said in a statement Thursday that despite "best efforts and new initiatives," African Americans and Latinos continue to be grossly underrepresented in tech.

"Going forward, and just days after Dr. King's birthday, it's clear that a a new revolution is thinking is needed to accelerate the move toward race equality and economic justice in the tech industry," he said. "Goals must be more aggressive so that companies reach parity with populations and communities in which they reside."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has publicly acknowledged a need for the social network to better reflect the diversity of its 317 million users, who gave rise to the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveIsLove and #OrlandoStrong. In 2015, Leslie Miley, an African-American engineer who held a leadership role at Twitter before departing, publicly questioned the social network's commitment to diversity, citing a 2014 Pew Research Center survey findings that about a quarter of African-Americans and Hispanics online said they use Twitter.

Last year, Twitter added Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee to help diversify its male-dominated board of directors, and Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour was promoted to the social network's executive team.

First published Jan. 19 at 9:26 a.m. PT
Update, 11:48 a.m. PT: Added comments from The Rev. Jesse Jackson and background information.

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