Twitter Engineering Manager Leslie Miley, the only black engineer in a leadership position at Twitter, just publicly announced that he has left the company. In his post, he says his reasons for leaving have everything to do with the way Twitter is addressing diversity and inclusion.
Though Miley was laid off as part of Twitter’s cuts in October, he says he had already told Twitter that he had planned on leaving at the end of October. He also passed on the severance package so that he could speak openly about his experience at Twitter. So, it seems as if Twitter was hoping to silence Miley by bundling him into the company’s layoffs.
As we continued the discussion, he suggested I create a tool to analyze candidates last names to classify their ethnicity. His rationale was to track candidates thru the pipeline to understand where they were falling out. He made the argument that the last name Nguyen, for example, has an extremely high likelihood of being Vietnamese. As an engineer, I understand this suggestion and why it may seem logical. However, classifying ethnicity’s by name is problematic as evidenced by my name (Leslie Miley) What I also found disconcerting is this otherwise highly sophisticated thinker could posit that an issue this complex could be addressed by name analysis. (For reference, here is a tool that attempts to do that. With Jewish or African/African Americans, this classifier scored 0% on identifying these groups in Twitter engineering). While not intentional, his idea underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity.
Twitter’s workforce consists of 1% African-Americans and 3% Hispanics in the U.S., and 13% women worldwide, according to its latest diversity report. Miley argues that Twitter’s issues with growth and engagement are related to the company’s issues with diversity.