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Twitter Engineering SVP Alex Roetter On Diversity: “We Have Blind Spots”

In a Medium post, Roetter apologized for his comments about diversity at Twitter, which were disclosed this week by a former employee.

Twitter Engineering SVP Alex Roetter On Diversity: “We Have Blind Spots”
[Photo: Flickr user andy orin]

Earlier this week, a former Twitter employee took to Medium to disclose that he left his job because he felt diversity was not being made a priority at the company. As Twitter’s sole black engineer in a leadership role, Leslie Miley wrote that he wondered “how and why a company whose product has been used as an agent of revolutionary social change did not reflect the diversity of thought, conversation, and people in its ranks.”

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Miley specifically singled out engineering SVP Alex Roetter: In response to a question Miley posed about increasing diversity in Twitter’s engineering sector, Roetter allegedly said that “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.” Roetter also suggested that, to see where job candidates were being weeded out, Miley could create a name analysis tool that would use their last name to determine ethnicity. This idea was, to Miley, a huge oversimplification that ignored “the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity.”

On Thursday, Roetter penned a Medium post to address the issues Miley raised. He admitted that “we have blind spots, myself included. One of mine is that I have a tendency to default to engineering-driven, quantitative solutions.” He apologized for communicating poorly, though he didn’t exactly challenge the comments Miley attributed to him:

I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity. 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.

Roetter went on to outline the measures Twitter is taking going forward. The company is making inclusion training mandatory for all employees, and looking into how many underrepresented minorities are making it through the hiring process. Some of the actions mentioned by Roetter were already made public in a post Twitter published earlier this year that revealed the company’s diversity goals for 2016.

In July, Twitter came under fire when its revenue team hosted a frat party-themed happy hour. Following the incident–which only drew more attention to Twitter’s supposed bro culture–CEO Jack Dorsey pledged to make diversity a company-wide goal. In his post, Miley applauded Dorsey’s reinstatement as CEO, noting that he could actually make a difference when it comes to diversity at the company. “The return of Jack Dorsey has the potential to change the diversity trajectory for Twitter,” Miley wrote. “It is my belief that Jack understands the use case of Twitter better than anyone else, understands how diversity can be additive to growth, and is committed to making that happen.”

[via TechCrunch]

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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