Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.35.30 AMTwitter 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 states that 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 that month. He also refused the severance package so that he could speak openly about his experience at the company. So, it seems as if Twitter was hoping to silence Miley by bundling him into the company’s layoffs.

A particular low moment for Miley, he wrote, happened when he asked a question at Twitter’s engineering leadership meeting about what specific steps they were taking to increase diversity. The Senior VP of Engineering responded, “diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.” A visit to the leadership pageon Twitter’s website will reveal that the company’s SVP of engineering is Alex Roetter.

The tipping point for Miley, who joined Twitter in January 2013, came after meeting with Roetter to discuss Miley’s idea for a job proposal that focused on increasing diversity in engineering. They both agreed that it was important to track the ethnicity of potential candidates in order to better understand where candidates were dropping out of the employment pipeline, Miley wrote on Medium.

Where the two disagreed was around how to track the ethnicities of the candidates:

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.

After that meeting, Miley started thinking about how, in good conscience, he could continue working at Twitter, where its SVP of engineering “could see himself as a technology visionary and be so unaware of this blind spot in his understanding of diversity.”

Still, Miley wrote that he left the company feeling conflicted, as he sees Twitter as a platform for empowering underserved and underrepresented people. He mentioned how he felt pride and a sense of purpose working on a platform that made powerful movements like #BlackLivesMatter possible.

In agreement with Mark S. Luckie, former manager of journalism and news at Twitter, Miley believes that some people see diversity as something that gets in the way, rather than as a benefit to growth.

Twitter’s workforce consists of 1% African-Americans, 3% Hispanics and 13% women, 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.

“For some at Twitter, diversity is an obstruction to avoid,” Miley wrote. “With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management. From this position, Twitter may find it difficult to make the changes to culture and product.”

Twitter has since responded, but failed to directly address what Miley said about his experience at Twitter and interactions with Roetter.

“We’re committed to making substantive progress in making Twitter more diverse and inclusive,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “This commitment includes the expansion of our inclusion and diversity programs, diversity recruiting, employee development, and resource group-led initiatives. Beyond just disclosing our workforce representation statistics, we have also publicly disclosed our representation goals for women and under-represented minorities for 2016, making us the largest tech company to put hard numbers around its diversity commitment.”

Before joining Twitter, Miley spent time at tech giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo. He says he plans to take some time off before diving into his next venture.

There are many industries in which diversity is a major issue and Tech has got to be in the top five. Companies should be doing all they can to make sure they are putting forth a sufficient amount of effort into recruiting qualified candidates from different races and ethnicities because they are indeed out there.

Have you ever left a company due to diversity issues?

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  • CoolChic

    At least I admire him for speaking out on this issue. This problem is going to keep happening until we own and control our own stuff.

    • Mr. Z

      and it will be the hardest problem to overcome at that…

  • bluelight74

    Once again I’ll say it. We need to start our own platforms. More black people use twitter than any other group. They have raked in billions, we’ve received nothing. They are perfectly happy with us throwing away our wealth to them. When are we going to start building for ourselves?

    • I am not in IT. However, I am in the engineering discipline where my focus has been on energy and/or energy research. One of the issues that I have been having is the fact that a number of companies have a great deal of stipulations of skills that they want you to have for each position that is not always reasonable. For that reason, I have decided to go back towards academia, preferably as a professor, to keep my options open. I have seen some professors who have consulted outside of their profession while a few had even launched start-ups. However, even with this avenue, you still have to deal with personalities, egos, and have a thick skin when it comes to seeking grants/funding. As you can guess, most of these professors are predominantly white men. I believe crowdfunding has made some small ventures possible given the hold that a number of venture capitalists have had on funding. However, you really have to build your network and know how to market yourself to make such start-ups possible.

    • bluelight74

      I’m in agreement with you but if we would simply unify there would be no need to seek capital investments, for any venture, outside of our own economic pool. We have control of hundreds of billions of dollars of spending power annually. Unfortunately, we watch more television ( which is brain rotting) engage in more social media, influence trends in fashion, media, entertainment etc.. and spend FAR more of our income than any other group. And yet we do not redirect that flow of capital back towards ourselves. It’s insane.

    • Believe me, you are speaking to the choir. I think the issue when it comes to the Black community is that some us feel a kinship when we see others from the Black community doing financially well as entertainers, media moguls, or anything that hold prestige in regards to fame. Yet many of those same individuals either attain their wealth through insidious means or at a cost to self-respect. It is almost as if there is preference to the facade of wealth and control versus the reality of building actual wealth and control.

    • CoolChic

      Good point.

    • HighFashionJunkie

      isn’t that always the case (the power of black twitter, the black dollar, etc.) and we still are treated like 3rd class citizens across the board!!

  • [email protected]

    His story certainly expresses the key points about the situation. There are many qualified black people and people of color who have amazing talent in the IT field and other STEM fields. There are organizations that are geared to help black people in CODE and other technical fields. We want any qualified black person who achieves their dreams in the tech field. The problem is that many big corporations have issues with diversity. We live in a new reality. There has been the growth of service jobs and jobs that deal with technology. We want workers internationally to have benefits, respect, and a just work environment. Also, we want black Americans to have greater opportunities too. The young generation is heavily filled with masters of the Internet, startup ventures, IT related knowledge, and just an appreciation of STEM fields.

    So, with change, there must be adjustments. Investments should be made to help our people. Also, we have to deal with the digital divide, which means that poor people lack the access to Wi Fi and other Internet services as compared to the upper class and rich people. A solution will not be one thing. It will be a combination of actions from mentorships, CODE programs, start up networks, and other forms of building up our black infrastructure (as great people in Clutch has wrote about before in an eloquent fashion). The engineer followed his conscience and we wish the best for him. The Promised Land isn’t here now, but we will be in the Promised Land during the future.

  • Mico

    I truly do admire his honesty, and am thankful that he had the guts to turn down that hush money lol. Hopefully, as others have stated, this and other stories about the lack of diversity in tech and other fields will help to start some new black business ventures and collaborations and create more support for the ones that already exist.