Leslie Miley is an engineer who spent 3 years at Twitter before joining Slack as its director of engineering in March.
At Twitter, Miley wasn’t too happy with the way the company handled its diversity issues. He famously wrote a blog post when he left Twitter, slamming the company for its lack of diversity — and also passed on his severance package so he could speak out about the company’s problems in public.
One of those moments came last week when he spoke with Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar.
Miley says, when he was at Twitter, he wasn’t invited to a company-hosted event featuring ex-NAACP head Ben Jealous. The rest of the company seemed to know about the event, so he asked Twitter’s head of diversity and inclusion about why he never received an invitation. The answer he heard was simply because Twitter didn’t think it would “have enough room to invite all the black people at Twitter,” he says, even though black employees only accounted for about 1% of the total workforce.
“It boggles my mind that a company and an individual at a company could actually think that something like that’s OK. You will not invite Hillary Clinton and not invite women to go see her. You would not invite the Pope and not invite Catholic people.
And it happened at an organisation and a company that gives voice to black Twitter. That gave rise to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. That sticks out more than anything. And it sticks out more than anything because someone justified at that organisation that it was OK not to invite people of colour.”
Miley says his current company, Slack, is much more supportive about diversity issues. Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield is one of the most vocal leaders in tech about hiring under-represented minorities. For example, at this year’s Crunchies Award, Butterfield sent four female minority engineers on stage to receive the award. The company also runs a blind testing to hire engineers from diverse backgrounds, Miley points out. About 5% of Slack’s total employees are black.
Miley says there’s a lot of ways to fix tech’s diversity issue, but just focusing on the pipeline is not one of them. He says companies need to more actively hire people already in the pipeline.
“The problem isn’t that we need to fill in the pipeline. The problem is the pipeline out there right now is not being tapped. And it’s not being tapped because companies that build the products that we use and build the next entrepreneurs and seed them with money don’t value people of colour, don’t value women in the same way,” he says.
Twitter declined to comment on this article.