Twitter's cofounder says a more diverse team would have addressed abuse earlier. Science says he's probably right.

Twitter's cofounder says a more diverse team would have addressed abuse earlier. Science says he's probably right.

Jack Dorsey Ev Williams

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Twitter cofounders Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams, and Biz Stone.

Greater team diversity could have solved Twitter's abuse before it even started, a company co-founder just said. 

Twitter should have invested more heavily in preventing abuse during the company's early days, Ev Williams, the Medium CEO who co-founded the company with 3 others in 2006, said on Twitter earlier this week.

Williams said he personally 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 current CEO Jack Dorsey. Currently, black employees and Latino employees make up 3.5% and 2.6% of company 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 occur more frequently on Twitter than any other social media platform, and they impact women the most. In 2018, 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.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently called the rampant abuse on Twitter his "biggest worry." The company rolled out new tools to identify offensive tweets in April.


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 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 resulted in white people making fewer inaccurate statements than they would have in all-white groups. 

When you bring diversity into your office, more 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 to 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 just passed a law that requires companies based to have at least three women on their board of directors by 2021. 

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