This past July, Janet Van Huysse (@janetvh), Twitter’s Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, wrote a rather high-profile post about the company’s serious diversity challenges, promising that Twitter was going to make “diversity an important issue for ourselves.”
Van Huysse shared some rather disheartening data reflecting how Twitter’s diversity problem confirmed the tech industry’s own diversity headaches. She posted a few graphs (like the one below) and assured everyone that Twitter was “committed to making inclusiveness a cornerstone of our culture.”
At the end of the post, Van Huysse listed several official Twitter profiles, telling people “who want to make an impact at Twitter” that they should follow @JoinTheFlock, @womeng, @TwitterWomen, @blackbirds, @TwitterOpen, @TwitterAlas and @womenux.
Having been on Twitter since 2008 and seeing a very vibrant [email protected] community grow literally from the ground up, I instantly followed @TwitterAlas, the company’s “Latino and Latin American employee group at @Twitter” that was asking all of us to #JoinTheFlock. Por fin, finally, Twitter had “gotten the memo.” The company was serious about its commitment to diversity in the [email protected] space.
This morning, I unfollowed the profile for this very simple reason: @TwitterAlas hasn’t been active since Van Huysse’s post was published on July 23.
And before that, the profile only tweeted two times. One of those tweets was the standard “Hello” when someone signs up to Twitter for the first time.
— #alas (@TwitterAlas) July 19, 2014
The other one was an RT of a @JoinTheFlock Vine video.
That’s it. No más.
Interestingly enough, the rest of the profiles Van Huysse included in her diversity post have actually been active. Of course, @JoinTheFlock has to be active just because it is Twitter’s main job recruiting profile (404K followers and a last tweet from October 18) and a profile like @womeng (Twitter’s Women in Engineering Group) with 23.6K followers can’t walk away from not tweeting.
However, unlike @TwitterAlas, other profiles from Van Huysse’s post keep tweeting, even if they lack large followings. For example, @blackbirds, Twitter’s African diaspora group, has less than 500 followers but tweets about its group and who they are:
— blackbirds (@blackbirds) September 27, 2014
@blackbirds is clearly making the attempt to build a community and share the message that Twitter is an inclusive place. The same goes for @TwitterOpen, the company’s LGBTQA employee group, which currently has 3.2K+ followers. That profile is trying, too:
— Twitter Open (@TwitterOpen) October 19, 2014
Yet @TwitterAlas has been Twitter silent since July 23. I hope it’s not because the number of [email protected] employees at Twitter is dismal (3%) and according to the chart Van Huysse shared in her July 23, the number of [email protected] at Twitter in leadership positions doesn’t even have a number on the chart.. I can’t conclude from the chart that the [email protected] leadership number is at 0%, but it definitely doesn’t look like it is even at 1%.
That figure is beyond troubling.
If only Van Huysee and the rest of Twitter’s leadership would stop for a minute and check out the 2013 data from Pew which concludes quite clearly that [email protected]… like social networking sites. A lot. Imagine if the company’s employees began to truly reflect the world of one of its core group of loyal users.
At the time @TwitterAlas launched, I was honestly excited. Twitter was waking up to the fact that U.S. [email protected] are a very active community on its site. And not only [email protected], but also Latin America. My excitement led to a tweet to Van Huysse and a somewhat encouraging reply:
@julito77 Let me know who you think I should be talking to!
— janet van huysse (@janetvh) July 25, 2014
That was on July 25, and after emailing Van Huysse with suggestions about what kind of outreach @TwitterAlas can do and what Twitter can do to become a more authentic part of the [email protected] digital space, I have yet to get a reply from her. It is now October 21.
So I tweeted Van Huysse again today.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) October 21, 2014
Here’s hoping that real answers come in and that Twitter is truly committed to diversity and fostering the development of online [email protected]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, and The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.