A few months after Jeffrey Siminoff left his position as VP of diversity and inclusion at Twitter, the company has brought on Candi Castleberry Singleton to lead Twitter’s diversity efforts.
“I’m so excited to join the team at Twitter to lead inclusion and diversity efforts for employees and the Twitter community,” Castleberry Singleton said in a statement to TechCrunch. “I’ve spent much of my career leading organizational change and building I&D into core business practices, and I look forward to bringing what I’ve learned to Twitter and building on the company’s great progress!”
Castleberry Singleton previously founded the Dignity & Respect Campaign, and formerly led diversity and inclusion efforts at Motorola.
Twitter’s latest diversity report showed the company was making some progress around the hiring of underrepresented minorities. In the last year or so, Twitter’s high-profile appointment of Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, as well as the hiring of Jayanta Jenkins, the company’s global group creative director, helped the company reach its goal of having six percent or more underrepresented minorities in leadership roles, which includes people at the director level and above.
Overall, Twitter is 57 percent white, 32 percent Asian, 3 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic/Latinx, 3 percent multi-racial, less than one percent American Indian and Native Hawaiian in the U.S. and 37 percent female worldwide, up from 34 percent in 2015.
In Castleberry-Singleton, Twitter has tapped someone with experience working on initiatives for major corporations. At Motorola, she was vice president of global inclusion and diversity, and at Sun Microsystems, she led the Global Inclusion Center of Expertise. She came from a background in sales and marketing at Xerox.
Her approach to corporate drives for more diversity: Making sure it’s “built in, not bolted on.”
“I’m so excited to join the team at Twitter to lead inclusion and diversity efforts for employees and the Twitter community,” Castleberry-Singleton said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing what I’ve learned to Twitter.”
Dorsey made the announcement in a tweet: “Excited to welcome @candi to lead our inclusion and diversity efforts @twitter. Welcome to the flock!”
Twitter, which has come under fire for the lack of women and people of color in its ranks, has had three diversity chiefs. Siminoff replaced Janet Van Huysse in 2015. At the time hiring a white man to lead diversity efforts ignited controversy inside and outside Twitter which is especially popular with African Americans.
According to Pew Research Center, 28% of Internet users who are African American useTwitter and 28% who are Hispanic or Latino use Twitter, while 20% of Internet users who are white use it.
The people who frequent the social media service may hail from diverse backgrounds but employees of the social media company do not. Nine out of 10 employees are white or Asian and about two-thirds are men. Four percent of Twitter staffers are Latino or Hispanic and 3% are African-American.
Diversity has taken on growing urgency in the tech industry, especially in its power center of Silicon Valley. Tech companies here, staffed mostly by white and Asian men, fear they will lose touch with the diverse nation — and world — that form their consumer base. At the same time, women and underrepresented minorities are being shut out of one of the fastest-growing, highest-paying sectors of the American economy.
Castleberry-Singleton said in April that she considers herself a diversity and inclusion leader.
“I get up every day believing there are more good people in the world than bad people and there is more good in the world than evil. It is the only way I can do this work,” she said.
During the course of her work and in speaking engagements, Castleberry-Singleton has challenged practices that are commonplace in the tech industry where hiring patterns are entrenched and self reinforcing. “If we only recommend people we know for jobs, we all need to make new friends,” she has said.
She’s also called on corporations to go beyond “the illusion of inclusion.” “It’s the difference between mentorship and sponsorship — that means you have skin in the game. It takes a conscious personal commitment from everyone,” according to Castleberry-Singleton.
The Los Angeles native received an MBA from Pepperdine University, a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from UC Berkeley and completed the Stanford University Executive Human Resources program. Most recently, she was founder and CEO of the Dignity and Respect Campaign, helping organizations and communities champion inclusion and build cultural awareness. She developed the campaign at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
She says diversity must been seen as a core business goal that is essential to a company’s success.
“When that is the case, people will find ways to solve the challenges of diversity. Just as important, they will watch for and respond to the social identity cues that show that inclusion is a core task, and not a peripheral one,” Castleberry-Singleton wrote in a chapter of Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference.
The commitment must be embraced by an organization’s leaders and must be backed up “by commitments and resources that lend conviction to their words,” she said.
Dorsey has identified diversity as a priority for Twitter. Last year he said: “We are not going to be relevant unless we are inclusive, unless we are representative of who we serve.”
A former engineering manager, Leslie Miley, had challenged the company’s commitment to diversity. Miley was the sole African-American engineer in a leadership position at Twitter. His public criticism of the company struck a national nerve, intensifying scrutiny of the social media service.
“Only when leaders make the case that diversity equals increased value to owners, employees, and customers can diversity become a part of the company’s identity and a core strand of its strategy and objectives,” Castleberry-Singleton wrote. “If it is important to corporate leaders, it will be important to employees.”