Running Through Walls: How Pinterest Manages Diversity
Diversity in tech has been getting a lot of press coverage in recent years — both positive and negative.
During a conversation with Venrock’s Richard Kerby, Candice Morgan, head of diversity at Pinterest, says that while the attention is valuable and helps keep the issue top of mind, “We also have to talk about solutions and what companies are doing. Sometimes that’s not as sexy as some of the topics around the data and what it’s showing, but really it needs to be about your processes.”
By putting formal programs in place, Morgan is confident that Pinterest’s efforts will pay off.
“Diversity has to be well-managed for it to be a benefit to creative potential, to problem-solving, to better performance,” she says. “Your hiring process, making sure that your job descriptions don’t have language that puts-off certain groups, and making sure that you have very consistent questions that you’re asking all candidates. These everyday things that are almost banal in some ways […] are what really make [diversity] work.”
Morgan balances both recruitment and retention to foster diversity at Pinterest, focusing on hiring more underrepresented minorities and women, especially in leadership roles.
When it comes to retention, Morgan believes it’s two-fold: “There’s people staying, and then … [there’s] inclusion, where people are feeling valued. You’ve got to work on those things simultaneously while you’re working on diversity, while you’re working on hiring. People need to have a sense of safety and trust so they can give input and we can get the fruit of that diversity.”
Morgan started her career helping large organizations improve their diversity initiatives as a senior consultant at Catalyst, a global diversity research firm. But not all executives she worked with were supportive of these efforts, including people that come from diverse backgrounds themselves. Morgan noticed, “Sometimes people feel like if they become the representative of their group, it impacts their careers and career trajectory.”
And she learned that for some executives, diverse or not, “It’s just not a salient issue. We don’t want to force people to become engaged. We have so many people that are really passionate about this already. Whether you’re a woman or a person of color, that doesn’t mean that you have to be actively as engaged in these opportunities. But I do want those people to understand, as well as everyone at the organization, that what we’re doing is trying to benefit the entire workplace, and the richness that comes from diversity in conversations and in solving really complex problems is something to be desired.”
Many people are quick to point out the lack of a diverse talent pool as a reason why tech companies have struggled to hire a diverse workforce. Morgan stresses the importance of shifting the perception of an ideal worker. For example, “Did they work at company X? Did they go to school X? This process is about decoupling the brand that they might associate with a particular school with the effectiveness of a person’s skills. We are making everybody responsible for looking more broadly at their networks.”
Pinterest is encouraging all of its employees, especially in the engineering organization, to identify diverse candidates within their networks, and has even instituted goals of finding leads from underrepresented backgrounds in tech.
Morgan adds, “There are so many rich organizations in San Francisco and around the country and the world where our leaders and employees can network with diverse candidates and expand their networks that way, and we encourage that as well. When we hear, ‘We can’t find them,’ we help them look harder.”