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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.


Silicon Valley's diversity problem receives a lot of attention these days. That's one reason why Pinterest, the 5-year-old social bulletin site, published a company blog post on July 30 and laid out its plans to interview and hire more females, as well as candidates from "underrepresented ethnic groups," or minorities. The initiative could also be perceived as an attempt to balance the company's predominantly female user base with its mostly male employee base.

"In Silicon Valley, hiring is difficult because for the top talent there are many choices and companies can't be creative enough," says Estelle Metayer, founder and president of Competia, a strategic consulting firm. "By announcing they are looking for diversity, they automatically become more attractive to half of the workforce."

Pinterest's lack of diversity, and how it's trying to change

Pinterest's July blog post outlined aggressive goals for the social network in 2016. (Tracy Chou, a Pinterest engineer, published an article in 2013 detailing the tech industry's low female employment numbers that very likely helped motivate the company to publish its post.) Pinterest aims to increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30 percent female and 8 percent minorities, up from 21 percent and 1 percent in 2015. For non-engineering roles, the goal is to increase hiring rates to 12 percent for minorities in 2016, up from 7 percent this year.

Right now, Pinterest has more than 500 total employees and is becoming more balanced in terms of gender, with 58 percent male staff and 42 percent female, up slightly from 40 percent in 2014. However, diversity gaps still exist; 43 percent of employees are Asian and 49 percent are Caucasian, compared to the 1 percent of African American and 2 percent Hispanic or Latin American workers. The company's engineering department is particularly unbalanced, with 81 percent male and 19 percent female workers. The engineering team is also 66 percent Asian and 31 percent Caucasian, while less than 1 percent of the group is African American or Hispanic or Latin American.

Pinterest plans to take action by implementing a "Rooney Rule"-type requirement where at least one minority candidate and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position. (The Rooney Rule "requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs," according to Wikipedia.) The move is important because Pinterest's diversity dilemma is even worse at the executive level; the company's executive leadership is 84 percent male, 47 percent Caucasian and 42 percent Asian. Just 16 percent of its executives are female and African Americans and Latinos aren't represented at all.


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