Twitter SVP Of Engineering On His Comments About Diversity: “I Did A Poor Job Communicating”

Twitter SVP of Engineering Alex Roetter had been relatively silent in the hours and days following Leslie Miley’s post about leaving Twitter due to concerns around race, diversity and inclusion. Well, that just changed. 

In case you haven’t been following, here’s a quick TL;DR about what happened. Miley was the only black engineer in a leadership position at Twitter. A couple of days ago, he wrote a Medium post about why he ultimately decided to leave Twitter. In it, he described an interaction he had with Roetter at a leadership meeting, in which Roetter said, “diversity is important, but we won’t lower the bar.” Roetter also made a problematic comment about trying to classify ethnicities by name analysis, Miley said, which “underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonization, slavery and identity.” 

Now, Roetter has spoken via Medium:

“I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity. That hasn’t always been the case, which is unacceptable,” Roetter wrote. “The comments attributed to me aren’t an accurate or complete facsimile, but they conveyed a meaning that was very far from what I intended, which means I did a poor job communicating. That resulted in unnecessary pain and confusion, for which I am truly sorry. We all want the same results — stronger representation of underrepresented minorities at all levels within Twitter.”

So, there you have it, I guess. Roetter didn’t explicitly deny what Miley said and has apologized. Though, it’s a pretty weak apology. Here’s what Miley wrote in response in the comments on Roetter’s post: “Thank you for this well thought out post. I applaud Twitter for always striving to be a better place.”

But perhaps, more importantly, Twitter is going to start requiring inclusion training for its workforce beginning in January. Assuming that Roetter hasn’t already completed the training, it’s something I hope will be valuable and useful for him. I’ve reached out to Twitter to see if Roetter has previously taken inclusion training — something he said that Twitter has offered to employees in the past.

“We also want to get and analyze data on how retention varies,” Roetter wrote. “Above all, we strive for improved transparency and fairness at all stages.”

Other things Twitter has committed to include “developing specific actions related to diversity” that Twitter will expect all managers to implement. What those changes actually are is unclear. So, until Twitter produces some meaningful results, I remain highly skeptical.

You can read Roetter’s full post here.