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How Pinterest is taking on its diversity dilemma

Lauren Brousell | Aug. 20, 2015
Popular 'social bulletin' site, Pinterest, made a statement when it detailed plans to interview and hire more female and minority candidates in its engineering and technology departments, as well as at the executive level. Here's how — and why.

Additional Pinterest diversity efforts include partnerships with more universities, and with Paradigm, a consulting firm that specializes in corporate diversity strategy, to help set up "Inclusion Labs," designed to help the company come up with more ways to increase diversity. Pinterest is also offering training to combat "unconscious bias," as well as mentorship programs to better support black software engineers.

"You don't see a lot of transparency around hiring practices and initiatives," says Kenneth Johnson, president and diversity recruiter at East Coast Executives. "The willingness to put the numbers out there in front of the world was an interesting move. They're saying, 'We understand there's a problem that exists here within our own community, and it's important enough for others to hold us accountable.'"

Culture@Pinterest, a program outlined in a recent LinkedIn post by Pinterest's Head of People, Michael DeAngelo, is another piece of the plan. The program aims to help potential new hires and current employees understand the company's six main areas of focus, as well as support its new diversity hiring initiatives.

Why Pinterest shared its diversity plans, and what it will take to succeed

In a statement sent to CIO.com, a Pinterest spokesperson described why it decided to publicly share these diversity plans:

"We're building a product that inspires everyone, and our success depends on our ability to understand the perspectives and needs of people worldwide. If we want to make meaningful changes, it's imperative that we have goals, specific programs and accountability. We're committed to building a company that's more diverse, and by extension a company that is more inclusive, creative and effective."

Johnson says that because technology companies drive change in the modern marketplace, it's crucial for them to be inclusive and have a balanced representation of genders and ethnicities. "It's extremely important for [Pinterest] to get this right in the early stages," he says.

Another reason for all the attention could be because Pinterest is trying to balance the demographics of its user base, which is mostly female, with its employee pool, which is more male. Pinterest is known mostly as a women's social network and as a place to organize related interests, such as wedding plans, hairstyles and clothes. As a result, fewer men are attracted to the site. "Pinterest has become a place for women to put their aspirations," says Competia's Metayer. "Understanding how you can better serve those [women] is difficult for men, so having diversity makes a lot of sense."

Pinterest isn't the only tech company to release employee numbers or launch diversity initiatives, but Johnson says the fact that it publicly released its goals suggests it has high-level executive support and that it is holding itself accountable. However, the company will have to remain committed for the long haul if it hopes to achieve its goals.

 

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