The self-described "only African-American in [engineering] leadership" at Twitter, Leslie Miley, has left the company. As he told the Chronicle this week, Miley's leave-taking was negotiated in September and stemmed from the Apple and Google veteran tech worker's frustrations with the company and its inability to create a diverse and inclusive workforce — one to match not just the outside world but its own product's user base. A saddened Miley writes that "with my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management."
TechCrunch clarifies that Miley was technically laid off along with 239 others in San Francisco when the company downsized by 8 percent, but that he passed up a severance package of $60,000 that would have silenced him in order to express his thoughts, some of them hopeful and quite positive, others fairly damning, in a Medium essay.
My time at Twitter is over. And I end it very conflicted. Twitter as a platform has empowered underserved and underrepresented people. It has fomented social movements and brought to the forefront of American media and politics issues that impact me personally and professionally. During my time at Twitter I experienced the pride and sense of purpose on seeing #Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter on the most prominent wall at Twitter HQ. This is something I will never forget.
However, there were times, as there had been for Mark S. Luckie — another black former Twitter employee whom SFist interviewed in September and whom Miley quotes in his piece — when Miley took issue with the company's attitudes and policies.
A "particularly low moment was having my question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity answered by the Sr. VP of Eng at the quarterly Engineering Leadership meeting. When he responded with “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar," Miley realized he was the sole Black employee in an engineering leadership position.
Later, when the company neglected to invite its internal group of African-American employees to a meeting of Twitter shareholders at which Jesse Jackson was speaking, Miley was nonplussed. Had his blackness been forgotten or was his assimilation being forced, he wondered, asking "Is a prerequisite to working in tech as a minority that one is expected to, in the eyes of the majority, sublimate your racial identity to ensure a cultural fit?"
Relatedly, USA Today writes that Reverend Jackson today called on Twitter to release information regarding the company's layoff.
"Twitter already has an appallingly low number and percentage of African Americans and Latinos working at the company, around 60 total in the workforce and zero in your boardroom and c-suite leadership," Jackson reportedly wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. "We are concerned that a disproportionate number and percentage of Blacks and Latinos were adversely affected in your recent layoffs."
In a statement related to Miley's departure, Twitter underscored that “We’re committed to making substantive progress in making Twitter more diverse and inclusive. This commitment includes the expansion of our inclusion and diversity programs, diversity recruiting, employee development, and resource group-led initiatives.”
The technology platform's slowing growth and struggling stock are not, writes Miley, reason to ignore issues of plurality in its workplace. Quite the opposite, he explains:
Twitter’s issues with growth and engagement and the issues with internal diversity are somewhat related. The over-reliance on a limited number of schools and workplaces for talent has caused a type of group think to dominate. Any change would be approved by people who all think alike. There was very little diversity in thought and almost no diversity in action.
Miley is nonetheless hopeful that Dorsey's leadership and vision can reroute the company. "The return of Jack Dorsey has the potential to change the diversity trajectory for Twitter," he adds.
Dorsey recently gave back the equivalent of $200 million in stock to employees in a show of both conciliation and good faith in his trimmed team.