Building a more diverse Pinterest

We aspire to build a product that the entire world can use. No matter where you live or what your background is, we want you to be able to discover the inspiration you need for your life.

Building a diverse team is critical to achieving this aspiration. We want our employee base to understand and reflect the world we want to serve. We create better products whenever we bring together different talents and perspectives into a room.

We’ve seen this play out at Pinterest. One example is a feature we piloted last year to give people a more inclusive way to discover beauty ideas. We had heard from Pinners of color who were frustrated that they had to work so hard to find the most personally relevant ideas to them. This was a problem we needed to address.

A cross-functional group came together from across the company, including members of our engineering, inclusion and diversity, and product teams. We reached out to Pinners and looked at ways to improve our machine learning technology and content. The result was a new feature allowing people to customize their beauty search results by skin tone. We’re continuing to make improvements to this product and will be launching it on mobile in the coming weeks.

Although we know there is a lot more work to do, this was one important step in serving all of our Pinners. Another was making Pinterest more accessible for people who are visually impaired.

Diversity makes our product and our company better. This is something we have believed since we got started in 2010. But we know that belief doesn’t always translate into practice and action. In fact, once we started scaling quickly, we began to look like every other technology company.

So in 2015, we did something new and set annual public hiring goals. Just as we had set goals for every other aspect of our business, we chose to do the same thing for attracting and growing talent from diverse backgrounds. We made these goals public to help hold ourselves accountable, and to help us get input and ideas from others in the industry.

Skin tone ranges product

In 2018, we achieved two of our three hiring goals. Specifically:

  • Our goal was to increase hiring rates for people from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds in non-engineering roles to 12%. We exceeded that goal and reached 14%.

  • Our goal was to increase hiring rates for engineers from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to 8%. We reached 7%, which is better than last year but still short.

  • Our goal was to increase the hiring rates for full-time women engineers to 25%. We hit that goal and reached 25%.

In addition, representation of women increased in the company overall and in tech. Women now make up 47% of the company (up from 45% last year) and 30% of the people working in tech are women (up from 29% last year).

Representation of Pinterest employees

Hiring rate of Pinterest employees

We know there is a ton more work to do. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way that we plan to apply in 2019:.

  • Build relationships with underrepresented talent all the time. This year we focused on diversifying where we sourced candidates and providing unconscious bias training to our interviewers and managers. However, we were inconsistent about building long-term relationships with talent. Relationships can’t be turned on and off. Building them requires continuous effort, even when there aren’t open positions. We created explicit goals for managers to spend time meeting new talent. And not only people who are in the industry today, but also with people who are likely to enter our industry in the future.

  • Apprenticeship programs work. We launched this program three years ago to attract talent from non-traditional tech backgrounds like coding boot camp graduates and self-taught coders. We’ve converted 93% of participants into full-time engineers. Those who didn’t went on to get software engineering jobs at other companies.  

  • Invest in employee communities. From 2016-2018, we’ve grown the number of employee resource groups from 1 to 8. They play an essential role in helping develop leaders, addressing concerns of employees and users, and fostering belonging. We are proud that an internal survey reports that 85% of our employees tell us they feel like they belong at Pinterest, our highest score to date.

  • Support employees’ whole lives. We want to make Pinterest a place where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected. That means supporting our employees both inside and outside the office. We are proud to offer a number of benefits to support our employees, from offering 4 months of leave for new moms and dads plus an additional four weeks for a gradual return to work (part-time at full-time pay), to fertility benefits, to access to mental health benefits services.

We still have a long way to go. That’s why we continue to make this work a top priority for Pinterest. We know it’s critical to building a great product and a strong company. Here’s what we learned in 2016 and 2017. We look forward to sharing more of the lessons we learn in the future.