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Twitter Tackles Digital Divide With New Engineering Apprenticeship Program for Women and Minorities

CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey,

Twitter on Wednesday announced an apprenticeship program designed to bring more women and minorities into its engineering and data science teams, as the company attempts to improve diversity among its technical staff.

“The Twitter Engineering Apprenticeship Program is an opportunity for folks from non-traditional tech backgrounds to experience engineering at Twitter,” the company said in one job listing for the program. “We believe the people who build Twitter should be representative of those that use the platform, this includes people from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented within tech such as women, black, Latinx, Native American, etc, just to name a few.”

Over the past few years, Twitter has come under criticism for enabling harassment, including racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, on its platform. Like other big tech companies, Twitter is trying to create products for the masses but has struggled to develop a diverse employee base.

Twitter’s workforce stands at 41.2% women, 4.7% black employees and 4% Hispanic employees, while its technical ranks consist of 21.3% women, 2.9% black employees and 3.3% Hispanics, according to the company’s June 2019 diversity report. The company says its goal is to boost female representation to 43%, and lift black and Hispanic representation to 5% each.

Twitter said its new program is part of its effort to make the “company reflect the diverse voices that come to Twitter every day.” A company spokesperson said in an email to CNBC that there are currently 16 open roles, “but we could imagine expanding the program in the future.”

As part of the engineering apprenticeship program, Twitter will bring on up-and-coming talent to its offices in San Francisco, New York and Boulder, Colorado. Participants will rotate throughout the company’s technical teams over 12 months while working with full-time employment benefits. Those who complete the program will graduate and join one of the company’s engineering teams.

Applicants aren’t limited to women and minorities. Rather, Twitter says it’s looking for people from “non-traditional” backgrounds, including veterans and caregivers coming back to the workforce, who have some programming skills and are self-taught or learned from coding boot camps.

“We know that great talent exists outside the traditional sourcing structures, and we need to do a better job of creating and fostering a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent,” the company said in a blog post announcing the program. “This is one step we’re taking to do our part.”

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