During a Periscope livestream to promote the upcoming tech-thriller The Circle, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey answered questions from cast members Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and Patton Oswalt, as well as director-screenwriter James Ponsoldt.
Watson’s first question was about diversity in tech, asking Dorsey to explain what he’s been doing to make his company more inclusive and why he “personally” thinks diversity is important. His answer was good, and acknowledged that many tech companies struggle to recognize the difference between diverse hiring and a truly inclusive work environment: “We focus a lot on the people we don’t have versus the people we do have and how to grow them.” In all, he spoke for about three minutes about Twitter’s recent progress, and explained how a range of “backgrounds and contexts” improves the company’s understanding of its own platform and its customers.
Then Patton Oswalt asked a seemingly impromptu, somewhat rambling question about where Silicon Valley’s diversity problem came from in the first place, ending with “Is [the lack of diversity] a generational thing that’s still there as an echo? Or are we not as advanced as we like to think that we are... if that’s still a thing that’s being addressed? It just feels odd that it’s being addressed in 2017.”
“Some of it is probably comes down to location”
To that, Dorsey responded “I’m not really sure, actually. I’m not sure what the causes are. Some of it probably comes down to location and where a lot of these things started, and just holding onto a particular locale instead of really broadening out. I think first just acknowledging it and then like, what are the most tangible steps that we can take, that we can actually build into our DNA and our practice every day, has been our focus. But it’s a good question.”
Watson jumped in at that point to direct the live audience to a pre-recorded clip, in which she talked about the unbalanced patriarchal relationship at the core of the movie. The conversation then moved on to address how good Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt are at writing tweets, how generally bad mass surveillance and fake news are, and whether social media is, problems aside, a force for good (in this panel’s opinion: yes).
But Watson and Oswalt’s early questions were the only pointed ones of the discussion — nobody really expected Dorsey to think up an explanation for Pizzagate that would satisfy Tom Hanks, or to suggest that everyone delete their Twitter accounts and move to the woods.
He dropped the ball on question two, and was fairly quiet until some concluding, summary comments about how the tech industry can go beyond being “tool-makers.” To be clear, Silicon Valley’s problem comes from defining talent and genius as traits belonging almost solely to white men, and willfully ignoring everyone else.
Dorsey showed that he sees the problem, and that he’s working to address it. But his second answer also suggested he’s still not quite sure exactly what the problem is, let alone how it came to be. Which is to say, “I’m not really sure” is an unacceptable answer for the CEO of a major tech company in 2017, and “location” makes no sense.