While I worked at Twitter, I repeatedly raised the issues of gender diversity on the internal mailing lists. I personally counted every woman in engineering, at all levels, and pointed out that the percentages were lower than published. I don’t blame Twitter for this per se, as companies have to rely on self-reporting and of course people who are interested in seeing a diverse workforce are more likely to self-report than people who think there’s no problem or just don’t care. However, any intern could spend an hour doing what I did and get a much more accurate picture of the actual workforce.
Whenever I would send out emails on the topic, I would get mail from a few individuals thanking me, but the public responses were mixed, and often contained comments like “there just aren’t enough qualified/experienced women” and “we can’t ‘lower the bar.’” The first is not supported by the actual data, and the second is just insulting. I also got messages from gay employees saying that their situation was even worse, but unfortunately I could not determine who was gay based on a photo or name, so I couldn’t come up with similar figures.
We had a group in from HackBright, a school to teach women engineering, and I and a few other women spoke to them. I asked before the meeting, is there any chance that we’ll offer any of them positions, and of course was told that there was no way, as they lacked both degrees and experience, so really, what was the point of having them visit? You can host a million people who don’t look like you for snacks and a talk, but if you aren’t ever going to hire them, it’s just for show, you don’t really want a more diverse workforce.
I got my degree in computer science back in the ’80s and I’ve been working as a programmer for 30 years now. I’ve worked at a dozen companies, mostly startups, I’ve been the only female on the engineering staff or on my team many times. Twitter was the only company where I ever felt like that mattered to anyone. And it wasn’t in a good way. I finally left to work at a company where who I was as a person and an engineer mattered and not where my degree was from or what body my mind happened to be occupying.
I hope that things really are going to change now, but after 2.5 years of banging my head on that wall I gave up. I seriously would walk around the office feeling like there must have been some sort of plague that killed off all the women. I can imagine it was even worse for Leslie. While Norma is correct that this is not an issue exclusive to Twitter, that doesn’t make the situation there any better for the people who have to deal with it.