Critical comments about Twitter’s lack of women in prominent positions prompted a bizarre public Twitter exchange this weekend, in which CEO Dick Costolo both pointed to larger societal issues driving the lack of diversity in tech, and knocked his most outspoken critic for "hyperbole."
The exchange, reported by BuzzFeed, stems from a Friday New York Times report cataloguing the makeup of the nearly-public company’s board. The report quotes Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, who calls Twitter's case emblematic of "the same male chauvinistic thinking," categorizing its record as "the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia." And when faced with the entirely valid criticism about a lack of diversity at Twitter (albeit liberally sprinkled with mafias), rather than write a response, CEO Costolo chose to take a swing at Wadhwa instead.
The response lead to a back-and-forth with writer and consultant Anil Dash before Wadhwa himself joined in the fray. Ultimately, not much was resolved — Costolo acknowledged that the lack of female board members was a problem while appearing to dispute the meaningfulness of "checking a box" by taking one on, while Wadhwa insisted that Twitter needed to take a leading role in the industry. Regardless of the points raised on both sides of the fence, it’s strange to see Costolo resort to name-calling in his first response to the New York Times report, particularly given Twitter’s leadership in areas like freedom of speech.