Home / Industry / Media /  Pinterest vows to add more female executives, workers of color

Pinterest Inc. has set new targets for increasing the number of women in leadership and improving racial and ethnic diversity throughout its workforce, a move that comes after the social-media company was roiled last year by claims of discrimination.

Ben Silbermann, co-founder and chief executive of Pinterest, told The Wall Street Journal that he was accountable for the experiences that employees have at work and that it was tough to learn how some staffers faced discrimination.

“What can come out of that is learning what we need to do better and making changes," Mr. Silbermann said in his first interview since the company agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a gender-bias lawsuit. “I’m trying to personally set that better tone."

Pinterest, whose visual-discovery platform aims to provide users with inspiration for creative projects, said Tuesday that by 2025 it wants to increase the number of people it employs from underrepresented races and ethnicities to 20% from 12%. The company, which has about 2,700 employees, also said it wants to increase the number of women in leadership positions to 36% from 30%.

The company also said it has achieved “pay equity" across its U.S. workforce by race and gender, and that it made about $1 million in adjustments to employees’ compensation in the second half of 2020. Pinterest also pledged to increase transparency around employee pay and promotions.

“We need to really invest and keep investing in building a culture where people from every background can feel welcome," Mr. Silbermann said.

Pinterest was sued in August when its former operating chief, Francoise Brougher, accused the company of maintaining a culture of secrecy among top male executives that resulted in her being left out of meetings and decision-making. Ms. Brougher, a former executive of Square Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, was hired in 2018, and she said she was fired in April 2020.

Separately, Pinterest was publicly accused of gender bias and racial discrimination by two other former employees. In June, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who are Black, said they were paid less than male counterparts and were retaliated against for speaking up about it.

The criticism prompted a wave of support as Pinterest employees posted messages in Slack channels backing the claims and pushed for improvements.

Pinterest last year hired a law firm to conduct an independent review of its workplace culture. In December, Pinterest pledged to make changes, including mandating unconscious-bias training and creating a team dedicated to investigating workplace concerns. As part of its settlement with Ms. Brougher, Pinterest pledged $2.5 million to help advance women and underrepresented communities in the tech industry.

It also named a new head of inclusion and diversity, Tyi McCray, and has added three people of color to its board of directors, two of whom are women.

San Francisco-based Pinterest has grown over the past year as the coronavirus pandemic drove people to its platform for home-project ideas. The company said revenue increased 78% in the first quarter to $485 million from a year earlier, while global monthly active users rose 30% to 478 million.

Managing employee relations has been challenging for companies this past year because of events including the pandemic, protests against police brutality and the U.S. presidential election. When project-management and communication-software company Basecamp recently announced that it would curb political conversations at work, the startup received backlash from employees, workplace consultants and politicians on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Other companies such as Google, Facebook Inc. and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. have also moved to limit political conversation on work platforms.

Mr. Silbermann said Pinterest doesn’t limit what employees can say about politics or other sensitive matters, as long as they treat each other with respect.

Still, the Pinterest co-founder acknowledged that until recently the company hadn’t focused enough on diversity and inclusiveness within its ranks. Instead, it mostly took steps to make its platform more welcoming for users, such as by adding the ability to customize search results by skin tone.

“I want a place where we have diverse perspectives," Mr. Silbermann said. “It’s not only the right thing to do, I think it’ll make our business stronger."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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