Twitter’s New Diversity Hire Ignites Backlash

Social media company Twitter announced last week that it hired Jeffrey Siminoff to serve as its new vice president of diversity and inclusion. Almost immediately, users took to the site to express their disappointment in the company for choosing a white man to lead diversity efforts at an organization that has come under fire for its low percentage of minority employees.

Siminoff was most recently head of diversity for Apple Inc. and co-founder of the Leadership Committee at Out Leadership, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. He succeeds Janet Van Huysse. She tweeted that after “6 incredible years, it’s time for my next chapter.”

Both Twitter and Apple have been criticized for their dismal numbers of women and minority employees. At Twitter, African Americans make up 2 percent of their U.S. workforce, and Latinos comprise 4 percent. Globally, women account for 34 percent of all Twitter employees.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. has been vocal about the disparity and publicly criticized Siminoff’s appointment.

“Blacks and Latinos over-index on using Twitter, but [the company’s] board of directors and C-suite leadership remain all white,” Jackson said in an interview. “[Siminoff] has a big mountain to climb, a tough task ahead. We hope he and Twitter’s leadership [are] up to the challenge.”

In August, Van Huysse wrote in a blog post for Twitter that the company was aiming to increase the representation of women in its workforce to 16 percent of tech jobs and 25 percent of leadership roles, up from 13 and 22 percent, respectively. For African Americans and Hispanics, hiring goals were set at 9 percent for tech positions and 6 percent for leadership roles.

Diversity consultant Ellie Tumbuan told USA Today that Twitter missed an opportunity in choosing Siminoff to lead the company’s diversity efforts.

“The choice that they made represents a potentially very challenging path ahead,” she said. “Had they chosen a woman of color, of which there are so many … not only would that have sent a much more positive message, but we know the work of that person might be more effective in achieving the goals of a chief diversity officer.”