Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Despite Global Reach, Big Tech Companies Still Lack Diversity

Yesterday, Snap held its partner summit and it was generally well received. Instead of simply being a more-or-less static video of an executive presenting slides, Evan Spiegel was shown on a virtual stage. A typical live conference presentation was obviously not possible because of the combination of infection prevention measures and understandable civil unrest over racist police violence, both of which Spiegel touched on in his presentation.

Despite publicly acknowledging that black lives matter, Spiegel was a little more cagey at a Tuesday company meeting.

Paige Leskin, Business Insider:

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said at an employee all-hands meeting on Tuesday that the company would continue to keep its diversity report private, according to notes from the meeting obtained by Business Insider and confirmed by current employees.

At the meeting, Spiegel said releasing diversity data would reinforce the idea that minority groups are underrepresented in the tech industry. The implication, one source told Business Insider, was that the report would make the company look bad at a time of increased focus on representation.

Spiegel told employees that the company’s diversity numbers were in line with those at other tech companies, which have long skewed white and male. His comments come just days after former employees shared accusations on Twitter of racism they experienced and witnessed while working at Snapchat.

Dare Obasanjo:

The icing on the cake of my recent tweet storm on tech diversity reports is Snapchat refusing to publish one because it’ll just make them look bad and openly saying that’s the reason.

A lack of diversity at major tech companies is not news, but it gained more attention towards the beginning of the last decade with articles about, for example, Evan Spiegel’s gross frat boy emails.

Beginning in 2014, tech companies began publicly releasing stats about the diversity of their staff. I used to cover these reports but, over time, tech companies slowly drifted in their commitment to reporting these numbers in a timely fashion. Apple’s current public stats are from 2018, for example.

It is upsetting to see that, nearly six years later, the numbers remain similar across the board for racial and ethnic diversity, while representation of women in tech has improved only slightly.

Nicole Lee, Engadget:

Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the CEO and co-founder of ReadySet, a diversity solutions firm that works primarily with the tech industry, acknowledges that it’s good that the companies are even willing to release such statements. (Hutchinson is also a co-founder of Project Include, a non-profit group dedicated to increasing diversity in tech.) “A couple of years ago, most companies weren’t even willing to say the phrase ‘Black Lives Matters,” she said. “I think it’s a positive indication that the Overton Window has moved to such a point where it feels obligatory for companies and brands to come out in support of the movement.”

However, Hutchinson thinks that words aren’t nearly enough. “These statements aren’t necessarily backed by real action,” she said, pointing out that the words ring hollow when the companies themselves do not have a good history of diversity and amplifying Black voices.

“For me, I don’t even look at these statements any more,” said Hutchinson. “I look at diversity reports. I look at the investment in your teams. I look at your executive team and your leadership team. To me, that’s a real indication of your commitment to change. If you’re not hiring, promoting, being led by and investing in Black people, and if you’re not firing the people who are racist, then you know a statement doesn’t mean so much.”

All that matters is action. I understand that some of these actions take time, but it is deeply dispiriting to see how little has changed after six years of shining a spotlight on this problem.