Last week, Twitter filed for an initial public offering (IPO), declaring its intention to become a public company by opening its stocks to shareholders. While financial experts are optimistic about its stock prices, others are skeptical about its leadership. Vivek Wadhwa, a tech researcher affiliated with Duke University and Stanford University, criticized Twitter for its exclusively white male executive board. According to the New York Times, all of Twitter’s investors backing the IPO are also male, and only one woman, Twitter’s general counsel Vijaya Gadde, is named on its filing. For a company whose services are employed by a diverse range of users, this is an unacceptable continuation of systematic discrimination in the tech industry.
Perhaps even more problematically, CEO Dick Costolo responded to these criticisms via Twitter by calling Wadhwa a “Carrot Top,” likening him to the eponymous over-the-top comedian. His casual brush off of this issue, perhaps a remnant of his days as a stand-up comedian, is reflective of the way he runs his company and, unfortunately, the way he perceives gender equality in the workforce. After a few more responses denying the allegations, he responded by asserting that he had an “acute understanding of the issue” and later stated that hiring women was a priority. However, if this were really so, Costolo would have hired women to be on the board before the company filed for its IPO; diversifying its executive board would not be an afterthought.
Unfortunately, Twitter is not the only tech company with few women in leadership positions. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, eight other companies in the region that filed for an IPO this year also did not include any women on their boards. None of them, however, were as prominent as Twitter. With the issue now prominently featured in the media, Twitter’s lack of diversity highlights the systematic problem of companies denying women leadership roles, especially in technology.
Costolo has called the lack of women in tech a “supply-side” problem—supposedly there are not enough women qualified to be working for his company. Yet women are increasingly entering the labor market of the tech industry, and New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller curtly responded to Costolo’s comment by naming 25 women he could appoint to the board.
Even if Costolo’s “supply-side” argument holds true, it points to an even more devastating aspect of the problem: women have not had role models in the industry or have otherwise been discouraged from etering the tech field. Costolo’s philosophy is then a continuation of this sexist cycle, reinforcing a glass ceiling that has already partially been broken.
For a while, the industry was headed toward a better direction, with Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg as COO of Facebook. But they are not enough—companies must continue to hire women in leadership roles and dispel gender stereotypes.
Furthermore, it is especially important for a web-based, people-oriented company like Twitter to be representative of its hundreds of millions of users. Ultimately, maintaining its all-male, all-white executive board will be detrimental to Twitter’s future, as the company will prove incapable of catering to the needs of a large portion of its audience. Twitter not only needs to hire more women, but people of all types of gender identities, races, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. Recruiting diverse employees will help reinvent the company and inspire further innovation. Instead of being an obstacle, Twitter has the potential to be a positive leader for promoting equality.
At Wellesley, students continue to show immense promise and dispel the current predominant myths of the tech industry. In a few years, we hope to Wellesley alumnae shattering glass ceilings and leading industries in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street and anywhere else they choose to work.