Snap Says Its Diversity Efforts ‘Simply Have Not Been Good Enough’ in First-Ever Report

CEO Evan Spiegel, who has called for reparations and racial justice in recent weeks, turns his gaze inward

Snapchat logo over illustration of hands
Snap released its first diversity report Wednesday. Snapchat, Unsplash
Headshot of Scott Nover

Snap Inc., a social media company that prides itself on operating differently than other major platforms, still has a lot of work to do to better diversify its workplace, executives determined in its first internal report on diversity and inclusion released Wednesday.

The self-reported analysis comes as the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google testify before the House Antitrust subcommittee today. A comparatively smaller tech company, Snap—which famously rebuffed acquisition efforts from Facebook in 2013—has presented a radically different vision for its company compared to the industry behemoth.

It’s a tech company centered on disappearing text, photo and video messages. Snubbing a central news feed, the Snapchat app has doubled down on augmented reality, maps and original streaming content from publishers and studios while avoiding much of the hate speech and misinformation that flourishes on competitors’ sites.

And CEO Evan Spiegel speaks differently than other social media executives.

In the wake of this summer’s Black Lives Matters protests following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Spiegel authored a lengthy essay calling for reparations for American slavery and a revamped tax structure to alleviate racial injustice. “We must begin a process to ensure that America’s Black community is heard throughout the country,” he wrote at the time.

In June, Snap stopped promoting President Donald Trump on its Discover platform—a curated hub that features video content from politicians, celebrities and other creators—for inciting “racial violence” against protesters at Lafayette Square in front of the White House.

As it turns out, Snap’s own record acknowledging diversity is far from pristine, according to its findings included as part of a broader analysis of its philanthropy, community and sustainability efforts in an extensive report called CitizenSnap. The 40-page diversity report’s introduction was written by Oona King, who was hired as the company’s first vp of diversity and inclusion last year.

The company claimed it made “significant headway” on some issues, but its efforts have “simply not been good enough,” the report’s executive summary said.

According to the diversity report:

  • In 2019, women made up 32.9% of Snap’s global workforce (up 0.9% from 2018), 24% of positions director-level or above (up 1%) and 30.3% of positions vp-level and above (up 9.6%). However, women comprise only 16% of the company’s tech staff and 7% of its tech leadership—but, those numbers are both about 50% higher than they were in 2017.
  • Hispanic and Latinx staffers made up 6.8% of Snap’s U.S. workforce while Black and African American employees made up 4.1%. Each increased about half of a percent from the year prior. Meanwhile, less than 1% of Snap’s U.S. staff is Native American or Alaskan Native.
  • Snap leadership is 70.4% white, 16.5% Asian, 7% multiracial, 2.6% Black or African American, 2.6% Hispanic or Latinx, 0.9% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Meanwhile, senior leadership—positions vp level and above—is 74.2% white, 12.9% Asian, 6.5% multiracial, 3.2% Black or African American and 3.2% Hispanic or Latinx.

Snap shows up late to the party in releasing diversity data: Facebook and Twitter, as examples, have each released annual diversity reports since 2014. However, compared to Facebook, Snap has a greater share of employees who are female (32.9% compared to 24.1%), Black (4.1% compared to 1.7%) and Hispanic (6.8% compared to 4.3%).

Snap’s road to releasing this information publicly was foggy at best and, in its report, admitted that while other tech companies published workforce representation data in recent years, it previously did not “feel that publication of data would lead to significant change in the industry.”

Even after Snap’s action on Trump in June, Spiegel told CNBC he felt unsure that workforce disclosures like this helped, saying they may have “normalized the current composition of the tech workforce,” compositions Spiegel admitted were unacceptable.

Now, the company—which has shared this data with employees for the past few years—says it understands that transparency will “drive stronger accountability.”

Snap vowed to double the number of women in tech positions by 2023; double the number of “underrepresented U.S. racial and ethnic minorities” at Snap by 2025; and in the long term, “reflect the racial and gender diversity (including nonbinary) of the different places” it operates.

The company also said it will link staff performance reviews to diversity and inclusion work, including at the executive level; audit all content on Discover for the first time; improve machine learning tools to root out algorithmic bias; and will partner with Official Black Wall Street to “identify and activate” Black-owned businesses using Snap’s ad platform. It’s also auditing its trade associations and suppliers for diversity and committing to spend more with minority-owned businesses.

Notably, Snap pledged to pay all employees a “living wage,” making the minimum salary for its Santa Monica, Calif. headquarters $70,000. This wage increase, which varies based on regional cost of living expenses, will go into effect in the U.S. in August and internationally by the end of the year.

A Snap spokesperson said that U.S. employees affected by the wage increase will, on average, receive about a $15,000 pay bump.

In June, Mashable reported on numerous instances of racial insensitivity from managers trying to “whitewash” editorial content, allegations Snap says it’s investigating. Snap also pulled an augmented reality filter for Juneteenth which, if users smiled, would show them breaking out of the chains of slavery.

Spiegel re-emphasized his vision for corporate activism in a blog post today. “The U.S. government and courts have made clear that businesses participate in society not simply as profit-maximizing machines, but rather as fellow citizens—with accompanying rights and responsibilities,” he said. “Our responsibilities extend beyond basic compliance with the laws of the countries where we operate to also include a commitment to making a positive difference.”

The Snap co-founder’s blog echoed his earlier sentiments around racial injustice, writing that America was “built on stolen land and stolen labor.”

Spiegel called CitizenSnap a “rough draft” of Snap’s overall ambitions, saying that the company has an “overwhelming amount of work to do” and must be held to account publicly. Notably, the company said it made Snapchat carbon neutral “by cutting its energy use and buying qualified offsets.”

“We believe that the greatest long-term limitation on the growth of Snap is the success of our broader society, and we will invest accordingly,” Spiegel said.

@ScottNover Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.