UPDATE: After this post published, Dropbox issued a statement explaining its decision to use the photo in question and the diversity of those included in the picture.
Even when Dropbox wins at diversity, it still fails.
On Wednesday, the cloud storage company released its latest diversity report, showing across the board gains for women, blacks, and Hispanics. That's a big win for Dropbox, which one year ago was put to shame after Angelica Coleman, an African American woman, spoke out over the obstacles she faced due to her gender and race while working at the company.
Despite this progress, Dropbox still drew the ire of the tech diversity community. That's because of the picture the company chose to promote its report.
Though the photo includes CEO Drew Houston surrounded by both men and women, there is not a single person in the image with obviously darker-colored skin. It's unclear exactly how the photo is meant to showcase diversity.
"I appreciate that white people come in all shapes and sizes, but true diversity has to extend beyond that and account for people who are marginalized," says Y-Vonne Hutchinson, diversity consultant and co-founder of Project Include, an organization that works with tech companies to help them improve their diversity. "That photo says 'This is what diversity looks like to us.' And aside from gender, it's very much ethnically homogenous."
About five hours after Dropbox sent out its report, the company clarified that the picture includes Dropbox Co-founder Arash Ferdowsi who is Iranian, Head of People Arden Hoffman who is lesbian and Lin-Hua Wu, a vice president of communications, who is Asian.
"This photo was meant to highlight the increase of women in senior leadership roles," the company said in a statement. "We realize it doesn't fully represent the diverse workforce we strive for at Dropbox. Improving our diversity continues to be one of our top priorities in 2017 and beyond."
The response on Twitter to the picture has been swift. One person told Dropbox they should fire their marketing team. Another person said "all looks pretty light skinned." One user simply replied with a photo showing six different bottles of mayonnaise.
"You can't be something that you don't see," says Deldelp Medina, director of the residency program at Code2040, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to get more black and Hispanic engineers into the tech industry. "It's important that marketing material make people feel welcome."
Aside from the photo, Dropbox showed promising gains. The company's representation of women increased by one percentage point to 33 percent, including a 6 percentage point increase when it comes to women in leadership. Ethnically, Dropbox also made progress, going from a 2 percent representation of black employees a year ago to 3 percent in 2016. Similarly, the number of Hispanics at Dropbox increased to 6 percent, up from 5 percent a year ago.
"We've made modest strides," Dropbox said in its report, "but we still have work to do."
All that progress, however, has been overshadowed by a single picture.
"At least they're not using a stock photo," Medina says. "But the real question is 'Where were their real folks of color?'"