Pinterest Pins Real Numbers on Diversity Hiring

Lackluster diversity discussions in the tech industry are par for the course, unfortunately. Many of the big companies talk a reasonably good game — rather, they talk — but few have put real teeth behind their stated intentions.

Pinterest, however, announced late last week exactly what it hopes to achieve in diversity for 2016.

Women currently account for two-thirds of the company’s business team, but their numbers aren’t as great in tech and engineering positions, composing 21 percent and 19 percent of those jobs, respectively. The company’s women in leadership numbers actually fell from 19 percent last year to its current 16 percent.

With a user base that is some 80 percent female, it’s not surprising the company hopes to do better, not just in promoting gender equity but also for other minority groups as well. White employees make up more than half of the company’s staff, Asians account for 43 percent, Latinos account for 2 percent and black employees just 1 percent.

But Pinterest has done what few companies dared: The company not only publicly announced its hiring goals but also attached concrete numbers to them. In a blog post about their diversity efforts, Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp said:

“Now that companies are regularly reporting their data, it’s clear not a lot of progress has been made,” Sharp wrote in the blog post. “We think one reason it’s been so hard to get numbers to change is that companies haven’t stated specific goals.”

Score one for transparency, two for admitting things need to change and three for advocating specificity. For instance, Pinterest statedit wants to increase its hiring rate for women in engineering positions to 30 percent and raise underrepresented people of color to 8 percent. To do so, the company will implement the Rooney Rule, which the National Football League started in 2003. The Rooney Rule requires at least one underrepresented minority and one female candidate be considered for each leadership opening.

The company also stated its intention to work with external groups to improve diversity, implement employee training to prevent unconscious bias, and recruit from a bigger pool of schools.

Considering the difficulties women face in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — careers, Pinterest’s plans are encouraging. Clear goals — we will bring non-engineering new hires up to 12 percent underrepresented ethnic minorities — often mean the difference between platitudes like “We have a long way to go, but we’re making progress” and real change.

When organizations set clear goals and express the necessary steps to achieve those goals, accountability usually follows. I’d really have been knocked off my feet if the company said what would happen to its current leadership team if they didn’t meet the desire goals. But I’ll take what I can get.

I hope in 2016 we’re holding Pinterest up as an example of what tech companies can achieve when they put pin some numbers to their diversity intentions, and that other companies are following suit.