“Omfg,” tweeted the New York Times’s Mike Isaac. “Does Snapchat hire ANY PoC to tell them this stuff is so so stupid?” — the assumption being that if Snapchat had a diverse, empowered workforce, they’d stop these gaffes before they happened.
This is kind of a valid question, and one that we have no real answer to. Because Snapchat, unlike virtually every other major social network, has not deigned to publish its diversity numbers.
To be clear, there are obviously people of color working at Snapchat. (In fact, the app’s co-founder, Bobby Murphy, is Filipino American.) But even as it’s become trendy for tech firms to publicize their workforce data, Snapchat has thus far declined to join them. The company declined to release those numbers at Re/code’s annual tech conference in 2015, where Snapchat chief executive Evan Spiegel said diversity was important to him, but referred to quantifying diverse hires as “not really cool.” It declined again when questions were raised about the controversial Bob Marley filter.
Last April, when a member of a California tax credit committee grilled Snapchat about its hiring practices, the company said only that it was in the process of hiring a “head of diversity recruiting,” according to the Los Angeles Times. (That member, who’d said she’d use her position to “raise concerns” about diversity, ultimately abstained from voting.)
This is all really important, because more diverse tech companies tend to make less mistakes like this. And incomplete as they may be, diversity numbers are widely seen as a sign that a company cares about the industry-wide lack of radial and gender diversity enough to address it.
Snapchat’s competitors have all made a show of publishing their own numbers, for instance — even when they’re dismal. (Twitter and Facebook, which have both made plays for Snapchat turf, are 57 percent white male at the managerial level.) And companies like Pinterest have challenged other tech firms to be more transparent about the makeup of their workforce.
“It’s hard for companies to admit that they’re working through any issues when they want to paint the rosy picture for recruiting,” wrote Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou in a widely circulated blog post. “ … [But] I can’t imagine trying to solve a problem where the real metrics, the ones we’re setting our goals against, are obfuscated.”
Spiegel himself has almost, sort of acknowledged the importance of transparency around hiring: On the Re/code stage last year, he admitted to Walt Mossberg that “I should have exact percentages for you” (the emphasis is mine, obviously).
But even if he “should” have had them, he did not — and that apparently hasn’t changed. The Post reached out to Snapchat to see whether it planned to publish its numbers in light of the latest racial gaffe. The company’s response? Not yet.
In the meantime, Snapchat has plenty of diverse candidates willing to give it a hand. On Twitter, several volunteered to serve as on-call lens screeners — not that it should have had to come to that.