When asked to address the lack of diversity in tech, a common refrain is that there just aren't enough qualified women and minorities to hire.
But Pinterest has found that's not exactly the case. After the pinboard social network decided last year to put serious effort into hiring women, it found that it was able to hire more women.
Progress has been modest, but over the past year the number of female engineering interns at Pinterest has increased from 32 percent to 36 percent, the number of entry-level female engineers hired right out of college increased from 28 percent to 33 percent and the number of female employees overall grew from 40 percent to 42 percent.
Now Pinterest has made its diversity efforts accountable to the public, publishing today its internal goals for hiring women and minorities in 2016.
"Now that companies are regularly reporting their data, it’s clear not a lot of progress has been made since then," Pinterest wrote in a blog post. "We think one reason it’s been so hard to get numbers to change is that companies haven’t stated specific goals."
Here are those goals:
- Increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30% female.
- Increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 8% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
- Increase hiring rates for non-engineering roles to 12% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
- Implement a Rooney Rule-type requirement where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.
(Editorial translation: "Underrepresented ethnic backgrounds" means minorities who are not Asian.)
Many tech companies have at least publicly shied away from setting hiring quotas, an idea that runs contrary to the mythical mantra of meritocracy in Silicon Valley that holds that the system will always allow the best candidate for a job to rise to the top, regardless of race or gender.
Companies like Google and Facebook have introduced training to curb bias in the workplace. Earlier this week, Facebook made its own bias curriculum public.
But much of the tech world also clings to the idea that there are simply not enough women and minorities to hire in tech. They pour money into programs to encourage future generations of programmers despite statistics that show, for example, that top universities graduate black and Hispanic computer science students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them and qualified women who have already made it into the tech pipeline are leaving the industry in droves.
Pinterest has attacked its diversity problem from all sides. The company has introduced bias-training programs, like many of its peers, but it has also tweaked the language in job postings to make them friendlier to a more diverse array of people and planned to expand the universities it recruits from. Pinterest has announced a partnership with Jopwell, a hiring platform that connects employers with minority candidates, and Paradigm, which will set up an experimental diversity lab at Pinterest.
And Pinterest, which was already ahead of many other tech companies when it first released its employee data last fall, has not been afraid to set quotas.
The needle hasn't moved much since then — still just 21 percent of its technical positions are staffed by women and 92 percent of its total staff are either white or Asian American, numbers that are the same as they were a year ago.
But Pinterest is in a unique position. It is a major tech company that’s still small enough, with about 600 employees, that hiring just a few female software engineers, for example, could move the needle significantly. And at Pinterest, that needle appears to be moving.