SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter’s senior vice president of engineering Alex Roetter has pledged “faster progress” after an African American engineer publicly criticized the company’s efforts to advance diversity.
The social media service gave voice to the Ferguson protests and empowered the Black Lives Matter movement, yet the company has a bleak record of hiring and retaining African Americans and Hispanics.
Leslie Miley, an engineering manager laid off last month when the company cut 8% of its workforce, blasted Twitter for its lack of diversity and inclusive work culture in a Medium post this week. Miley wrote that a “particularly low moment” came when Twitter’s engineering chief told him: “Diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.”
He also said the engineering chief proposed classifying the ethnicity of potential job candidates by last name.
Miley did not name Roetter. But in his response, Roetter acknowledged that Miley was referring to him.
“I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity,” Roetter wrote. “That hasn’t always been the case, which is unacceptable. The comments attributed to me aren’t an accurate or complete facsimile, but they conveyed a meaning that was very far from what I intended, which means I did a poor job communicating. That resulted in unnecessary pain and confusion, for which I am truly sorry. We all want the same results — stronger representation of underrepresented minorities at all levels within Twitter.”
Miley, who declined to sign a non-disparagement agreement so he could speak publicly about his experiences at Twitter, did not have an immediate comment.
Miley’s criticism of Twitter’s track record on diversity struck a national nerve, generating headlines and drawing renewed scrutiny of the social media service.
Rev. Jesse Jackson told USA TODAY on Wednesday he has “grave concerns” that the recent layoffs at Twitter disproportionately affected African Americans and Hispanics, and he has asked CEO Jack Dorsey to publicly release “a specific accounting.”
“I’ve learned a lot this week,” Roetter wrote. “We as a company are working to address our blind spots swiftly to build a Twitter that will make our employees and people who use our services proud.”
Follow USA TODAY senior technology writer Jessica Guynn @jguynn
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1iGNliG