Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann has committed to addressing racial inequality within the company, outlining a range of measures that Pinterest will undertake after concerns were raised by two former Pinterest employees.
Pinterest has long sought to champion representation and diversity, with features like it's skin tone search personalization tools and its work with outside organizations to establish more inclusive policies.
In fact, back in January, as part of its sixth Diversity Report, Pinterest touted the fact that it had exceeded all three of its hiring goals in this area.
But evidently, that only told part of the story - on Monday, two former Pinterest employees publicly criticized the company, detailing their experiences, as employees of color, within the culture of the platform.
I shouldn’t have to share this story in the year of our Lord, 2020 - but here we are. I’m an alum of Yale, Google, FB, in the WaPo Tech 202 Network, etc…and recently decided to leave @Pinterest, which just declared ‘solidarity with BLM.’ What a joke. ????1/#BelieveBlackWomen— Ifeoma Ozoma (@IfeomaOzoma) June 15, 2020
Pinterest responded, saying that it had investigated both cases and found no evidence of wrongdoing. But now, amid rising angst about its approach, Silbermann has sent employees a long memo, outlining the various efforts they will undertake, and admitting, on investigation, his own ignorance to such experiences.
As per Silbermann:
"It’s been devastating to hear the stories of Black employees who feel like they don’t belong at Pinterest. Because of the lack of representation in senior leadership and the board. Because they are afraid to bring concerns to their managers or HR. Because they don’t feel that they have the same opportunities to grow their careers. Because of the lack of diversity in our product and brand. [...] I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t understand the depth of the hardship and hurt many of our team members have experienced. I need to do better. My leaders need to do better. And Pinterest needs to be better."
In terms of specific action, Silbermann says that Pinterest will:
- Add a non-white board member, and bring in an outside firm to evaluate whether black employees are underpaid
- Require all employees to take classes on building inclusive teams and unconscious bias
- Run monthly events to learn more about systemic racism and inclusivity
- Establish a metric-based understanding of how inclusive its product experience is today, and set measurable goals to improve
- Establish new goals in featuring a diverse set of creators, businesses and merchants, tied to a long-term goal of building a far more diverse content corpus
- Improve representation in teams across engineering, product and design through both recruiting and development
Silberman commits to investigating the causes of the systemic issues within Pinterest, and addressing them as best they are able, in order to work towards improving equality for all employees, and representation on the platform overall.
The issue highlights the broader depths of racial discrimination and diversity, that it's not as simple as face-value data points or providing more inclusive tools. The challenges of systemic racism go deeper, and will often go unnoticed if they're not specifically sought. Silbermann had seemed confident that Pinterest was inclusive, however the evidence shows that there were many examples where the company had fallen short, significantly, and as such, it's good to see Pinterest taking it on and looking deeper at the cultural elements that can lead to negative outcomes, in all forms, for people of color.
It's the latest in a range of policy approaches and updates from social platforms, several of which are now being forced to take a deeper look at processes which they may not have thought were problematic.
LinkedIn this week outlined its next steps to address issues with internal diversity and representation after a meeting on the company's response to the #BlackLivesMatter protests lead to insensitive and ignorant comments around such shared among staff members. Google has also outlined its expanded commitment to "building a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging for Googlers", with a focus on the black community.
In all three cases, deeper investigation found that there are levels of racial bias within their organizations, which their leadership teams may not have even realized were there. This, again, underlines the need to take a harder look, and to tackle the tough questions around racial divides, in order to get the root of such issues, and challenge the your own established beliefs and understandings.
You may not think that there's a problem, but in gathering more perspectives, maybe you'll find there is, and maybe those cases could help to establish a better understanding of where to focus, and improve in future.