Greater team diversity could have solved Twitter’s abuse before it even started, a company cofounder has said.
Twitter should have invested more heavily in preventing abuse during the company’s early days, Ev Williams, who founded the company with three others in 2006 and is now the CEO of Medium, said on Twitter earlier this week.
Williams said he underestimated how much of an issue abuse would be during his time as CEO from 2008 to 2010, in part because of the lack of gender and racial diversity on his team.
Williams founded Twitter along with three other white men including its current CEO, Jack Dorsey. The company has said that at the end of 2018 black employees and Latino employees made up 3.5% and 2.6% of the company’s US leadership.
“Had I been more aware of how people not like me were being treated and/or had I had a more diverse leadership team or board, we may have made it a priority sooner,” Williams wrote.
Offensive and abusive attacks have long been a problem on Twitter even compared with other social-media platforms, and they affect women the most. In 2018, the human-rights group Amnesty International found that female politicians and journalists received one abusive tweet every 30 seconds in 2017.
Women of color were 34% more likely to receive offensive comments, according to the report.
The hypothesis from Williams — that a diverse team identifies issues more effectively — has scientific backing.
An empirical study out of Tufts University in 2006 found that juries with greater racial diversity raised more case facts and made fewer factual errors. The study attributed the better performance not just to black jury members bringing in different perspectives — the presence of black jury members seemed to result in white people making fewer inaccurate statements than they would have in all-white groups.
Diverse companies are more likely to reexamine facts, remain objective, process new information more carefully, and innovate more, according to the Harvard Business Review.
The takeaway: People make worse decisions when surrounded only by people who look like them.
The pattern of diversity yielding accuracy operates at an economic level, too: An analysis in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that market prices fit true values 58% better in diverse markets compared with homogeneous ones in both North America and Southeast Asia. “Our findings suggest that diversity facilitates friction that enhances deliberation and upends conformity,” the authors concluded.
While companies continue to struggle with diversity in leadership, new policy might turn the tide. California recently enacted a law requiring the inclusion of women on the board of directors of California-based public companies.