Twitter responds to criticism over lack of women in leadership positions

Daniel Bean, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Twitter has been in the spotlight for the past several weeks after it announced the company would go public. And while the social media service's eye-popping user count and multibillion dollar value have impressed some investors, Twitter has been sharply criticized by some for its lack of female leadership.

A New York Times article last week pointed out that, among the company's dozens of top officials, only one is a woman: Vijaya Gadde, general counsel at Twitter. She's held the position for just over five weeks. Additionally, the company's board is all men and so have been all of its investors thus far, comprised of 20 partners.

Citing data from research firm Catalyst, the piece explains that this trend of women missing from top tech leadership roles isn't necessarily a Twitter problem, but an obstacle throughout Silicon Valley. Just 5.7 percent of employed women in the United States work in the computer industry, and only about 2 percent of women have a degree in a high-tech field.

Though the company isn't the only tech giant to display gender inequalities in leadership, it is one of the only ones to not have a single woman on its board. The boards of Facebook, Microsoft, Zynga, Google, Apple, Amazon and eBay all include at least one woman, according to a Time magazine report.

Twitter does have female vice presidents in the departments of international market development, media, human resources and business development.

The debate over Twitter's woman problem eventually spilled over onto Twitter. Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, had commented in the Times article, railing Twitter's "chauvinistic thinking" for filing for IPO "without a single woman on the board." Twitter CEO Dick Costolo responded via tweet over the weekend, calling Wadhwa "the Carrot Top of academic sources."


After explaining that it was Wadhwa's "propensity for silly hyperbole" that he was criticizing, Costolo did comment on the company's diversity perception problem.

"The whole thing has to be about more than checking a box & saying 'we did it!'" Costolo wrote. "...I *think* I have an acute understanding of the topic & host of related issues. Of course, proof is in deeds."

Wadhwa responded to Costolo on Twitter by saying, "No Dick, it isn't about checking a box and you didn't do enough. You have a social responsiblity. You have to lead--not make excuses." Then, in a more elaborate argument for Twitter's responsibility to diversity, Wadhwa penned an article for TechCrunch on Sunday, writing that it is "time to change this. Twitter, and other technology companies in the echo chamber, must lead."
AllThingsD reported last month that Twitter is aware of its diversify in leadership problem and quoted one person close to the situation as saying, “It is a stated goal of the board, and we had hoped to have a woman director before the IPO." One board member has even reportedly made the tongue-in-cheek comment that Twitter leadership needs to expand beyond "three Peters and a Dick," a reference to Costolo and three of the current board members, investors Peter Chernin, Peter Currie and Peter Fenton.

When reached for comment on the topic of diversity in leadership roles, a Twitter spokesperson told Yahoo News, "Twitter actively supports initiatives to teach and mentor more young women with interest in science and technology."

"We are a technology company, but we are ultimately a company of people," the representative said. "We have roughly 2,000 employees worldwide of different experiences and backgrounds, all working toward our goal of giving everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers."
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