Twitter Hit with Sex Discrimination Lawsuit By Female Software Engineer

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The battle for gender equality in Silicon Valley isn’t going to go away.

On the heels of gender discrimination lawsuits against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Facebook, Google and Tinder, Twitter is now under fire for the way it promotes women for senior-level positions.

Software engineer Tina Huang filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco against Twitter last week, claiming that the microblogging company unlawfully favors male employees for promotions.

The suit alleges that there is a mysterious and opaque informal promotion process at Twitter that involves secret management committees promoting employees without posting job openings or reviews. Without formal procedures in place, Twitter favors a fraternity-like “shoulder tap” process, as Reuters put it, wherein few women were promoted to top engineering positions, leading to an gender imbalance within the company.

Policy Talks @ the Ford School lecture by Dick Costolo (BS '85), CEO of Twitter

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

Huang, who worked at the company between 2009 and 2014, complained to CEO Dick Costolo in an email in March last year after she was denied a promotion. The company subsequently put her on leave. After three months Huang didn’t hear back from the company about a possible timeframe for her to return to work. In court documents, Huang’s lawyers added:

“Ms. Huang’s career at Twitter was irreparably derailed for making a complaint. After three months without explanation as to the status of the investigation…she felt she had no choice but to leave the company for the sake of her career.”

According to a statement made by Twitter, executives had persuaded Huang to stay at the company, and Huang’s resignation was of her own doing.

“[Huang] was not fired. Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms Huang was treated fairly.”

Huang’s lawyers provided a 10-point list detailing how “Twitter’s policies and practices have thus had the effect of denying equal job opportunities to qualified women,” Mashable reports.

The lawsuit continues to reinforce the claim that the tech industry is male-dominated and sexist, with a lack of females holding top or senior positions. According to law firm Fenwick and West, only 11% of women hold executive positions in Silicon Valley. At Twitter, the workforce is primarily white and male, especially when it comes to tech-related positions.

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