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Pinterest’s Head Of I&D On Creating A Culture Of Inclusion: Belonging, Uniqueness, And Diversity

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Candice Morgan, Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Pinterest.

This post is part of Jopwell’s “From The Desk Of” series featuring the leading voices in corporate America sharing their thoughts, insights, and experiences around building more diverse and inclusive workforces.

In conversations about equal representation in tech, there is a real focus on numbers. And while there’s no doubt that data is important, particularly for tech companies, the way you get that data to move in the right direction is arguably more important. At Pinterest, we believe that the effort requires working with a combination of factors – levers, if you will – that together create a culture of inclusion.

Inclusion extends far beyond who you’re bringing in (hiring rates) and who’s leaving (attrition rates). It’s ensuring that all team members feel valued for what they bring to the table and detect a sense of shared values. One example of how we do this is by training managers to give feedback equitably, so that they’re not held back by ideas like, Oh, I don’t want to say that to a woman because she might cry, or, Oh, I don’t want to say that to him because it might seem like I’m discriminating.

My title used to be head of diversity. It’s now head of inclusion and diversity, in that order, because I don’t want the work that we do to be solely about a hiring goal. Inclusion is essential, and we need to be sure we’re building it in the right way. That’s why, right now, we're focused on three pillars: belonging, uniqueness, and diversity. Here’s how that works at every level of Pinterest.

1. Belonging.

The current state of representation at many tech companies doesn’t afford the same “comfortability” to everyone because the numbers are so low for some groups. (And our goals include hiring from those underrepresented groups, such as veterans, people with disabilities, and employees of all ages). Belonging – the whole idea of feeling like you can bring your whole self to work – can encompass so many different things. We know that women in tech have more “belonging uncertainty,” than men, for example, and we know that there are there are relatively few Black, female software engineers working in tech companies as compared to other groups. But what programs can we create around belonging to try to move the needle for these prospective employees and so many others? A few ways we look to actively support belonging are:

  • Onboarding: Hosting new-hire orientation that includes employee-facilitated unconscious bias training.
  • Surveys and follow-up: Institutionalizing a platform for employees to voice perspectives in decision-making and know they’re being heard.
  • Building community: Making sure people feel they can connect with colleagues who share their hobbies, culture, and interests through our workplace events, employee communities (such as [email protected] Pinterest), and many clubs.

2. Uniqueness.

A relatively new focus for us, uniqueness takes inclusion to another level. Not only do we want to make sure that you feel welcome and share values with people around you, we also want to be certain that you feel you are given an opportunity to express your talent and receive credit for your contributions. We think about supporting uniqueness by group:

  • Employees: Leveling the playing field for performance reviews by including an unconscious bias checklist and ensuring that criteria are clear and consistently applied through discussions with senior leaders and HR.
  • Management: Training inclusive managers who, according to our employees, inspire more risk-taking and create more opportunities for individuals to embrace their unique contributions.
  • Leadership: Inspiring executives to model inclusive leadership.
  • Community: Giving employees an opportunity, through our Studio Nights, to express their talents — whether it is cooking a certain cuisine, salsa dancing, yoga, or language learning.

3. Diversity.

In thinking about diversity, there’s who you bring into an organization and then there’s who you elect as leaders. A lot of companies have a very specific profile of who they recruit, but few have a clear and focused way to open up opportunities for current employees to rise up the ranks. I’m very proud of the steps we’ve taken to address some of the stereotypes we hold around who is qualified to be hired and lead.

  • Apprenticeship program: Taking people who would have otherwise not wound up in tech and pairing them with mentors and effective managers.
  • Talent development: Hosting a summer program for promising college freshmen identified as at risk of dropping out of the software engineering pipeline.
  • Encouragement for prospective leaders: Promotions above a certain level are a self-nomination process. We know women self-nominate at lower levels, so we put a call out to all engineers, which can serve as a way to invite otherwise-hesitant prospects to throw their hats in the ring.

There are many things that create a culture of inclusion, and it’s something that you can see at every level of your own career. It’s your experience learning about a company, walking in the door, working with colleagues, and interacting with leadership. There’s no one way to know that a prospective company is doing it right, although I will say that if the recruiters can’t talk about diversity at all – if they’re, like, “Oh, yeah, everything’s good!” – that’s not a great sign.

Inclusion is about ever-broadening the idea of what it means to work somewhere. The other day, I was listening to the radio and heard a commercial advertising a job board that included the phrase “tech bros.” It literally assumed that all people in tech are men! I don’t identify as a “tech bro,” and my job is to break down the idea of what a tech bro is and what qualifications you need to have to excel at that job. We do that by investing in building a strong candidate pipeline, encouraging our teammates to bring all parts of themselves to work, and ensuring that leaders have the full context to form opinions. In other words, by influencing everyone, from the person who thinks he/she/they could never work here to our CEO.

Pinterest is a Jopwell partner company.

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