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Pinterest’s Head of Diversity: ‘This Is Not A Volume Game. Diversity Is Really Hard’

Estimated reading time ~ 6 min
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After years of industry insiders discussing workplace diversity and inclusion as though it were a numbers game, HR managers are finally revising their positions. Now the conversation is about quality over quantity. And we’re not only talking about the quality of candidate  – it’s about the quality of culture.

Just ask Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Pinterest, who has been in the role for just over a year. She has seen the industry shift slowly towards recognizing that simply hiring a bunch of underrepresented minorities to meet a quota isn’t necessarily going to foster a more diverse company culture. The name of the game is making small changes to affect diversity at various levels of the organization from recruiting to hiring, employee engagement, events, management, employer branding, professional development, and retention. And it starts at the top.

Working alongside CEO Ben Silberman, Morgan and her team are executing her approach for building and sustaining a diverse pipeline. “We’re on a mission and our leadership team is very much involved in reaching out proactively,” says Morgan. “Our CEO is focused on what we are doing at every level, including talking about unconscious bias before making promotion decisions.” Their unofficial motto? “We’re focused around moving faster, being more fearless.” That means, she says, confronting difficult challenges, having tough conversations, celebrating the little wins and admitting when they have fallen short.

Glassdoor’s Amy Elisa Jackson caught up with Morgan to dig into her efforts at Pinterest and what all of us can learn about the value of diversity in the workplace.

Glassdoor: Pinterest set a very big goal in 2015 around diversity in hiring and fell short. That was a very public shortcoming. What did you and your team learn from the experience?

Candice Morgan: Diversity is really hard. We set a really ambitious goal and I’d rather set ambitious goals and do everything we can to run towards those goals in a smart way rather than setting no goals at all or play it safe. One of the risks that you run in setting a bold goal [is] saying we’re just going to rally and just change what we’re doing.

Glassdoor: Are you re-evaluating your numbers?

Candice Morgan: This is not a volume game. It’s not about, “Let’s just get lots of women.” That is not good for the experience of candidates who just want to join a great company and contribute.

Glassdoor: So what can you share about the goals your team has set for diversity and hiring in 2017?

Candice Morgan: Our goals fall into a couple of categories: One is around making sure that our hiring rates of the groups of people that we’re bringing in represent a diverse range of people. The second is to look at levels and the diversity that we’re bringing in [to make sure] it’s focused both on overall talent as well as leadership. We are still going to continue to focus on senior women as we lay the foundation for the legacy of women in our company as engineers. For example, we did lower our diversity goal for 2017 to focus on [achieving] 25 percent women in engineering. Another goal is to have a hiring rate of at least 8 percent underrepresented Black, Latino and Native American Software engineers. The statistics and data are around 1 percent to 2 percent ... typically for those groups. Our goal is 8 percent. Last year we got to 9 percent so we exceeded that goal. So the goal is to be at least 8 percent or higher this year. Lastly, on the business side  –  our people team, marketing  – over half of those teams are women, but the racial and ethnic gap is still really wide. Our goal is to hire a rate of at least a minimum of 12 percent Black, Latino, and Native American employees. Last year we met our goal. We got up to 12 percent.

Glassdoor: How is the Pinterest executive leadership team specifically tackling this?

Candice Morgan: This past week our leadership team was making decisions about diversity and performance. The first thing that they did as part of that conversation is to review unconscious bias at the behest of our CEO and our Head of People. They’re actually changing the language that we use to get to a much stronger way of evaluating candidates without bias. That inclusive management style is also a huge goal for us this year.

Glassdoor: What’s the secret sauce of Pinterest’s diversity initiatives?

Candice Morgan: I wish it was one thing. If I had to narrow it down, I would say that our leadership team, helmed by co-founders Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp, have been pushing it. They are the ones who made the call to say we’re going public with our goals around diversity. Now you walk around the company and you see it. I see it. I feel it and I have people come up to me — White, Black, lots of different people from different backgrounds — [and say] that they see it and they appreciate it.

Glassdoor: I’ve seen Ben speak about diversity. He’s definitely a champion.

Candice Morgan: Ben [spoke] very personally at a conference recently called Afrotech put on by Blavity. The first thing that Ben said was, “I’m here because I want there to be more Black entrepreneurs.” We were very much encouraging of one of our Black software engineers, Makinde Adeagbo, who is the founder of /dev/color and who used to work at Pinterest. He spent half of his time on /dev/color and then left Pinterest to develop it even further. Now we’re a huge supporter. Our Black software engineers are part of /dev/color. There’s such a great relationship because it’s much bigger than Pinterest.

Glassdoor: Do you feel like diversity has really contributed to innovation at Pinterest?

Candice Morgan: It absolutely has. The real way that diversity contributes to innovation is in such an organic way. It’s not like, “Hey, I added a woman to the team and then she thought about an idea for women and then we get better for women.” It’s not that kind of plug-and-play, but it’s about someone saying, “Wow, I’m sitting at the table with a person from a background I have never encountered before or know very little about. This person probably knows things that I don’t know, and I might know things that this person doesn’t know.” It’s about staying curious and challenging one another to get to the best result.

Glassdoor: Any concrete examples of innovation being spurred by diversity?

Candice Morgan: One example is how we recently expanded the gender option. When you sign up on Pinterest, we want you to start to explore things. We want to give you things that help you customize your experience and gender is one of the things that we do ask people upon sign up, but our gender options were very binary: male and female. One of our software engineers worked to expand our gender options that people could put in and reflect a fluid spectrum in terms of gender identity. She allowed much more customization around that.

Another example is when our community team worked on down ranking [photos] that were culturally insensitive in Halloween searches. We wanted to make sure that LGBTQ friendly search results weren’t being censored for reasons that didn’t make sense. Since we were really adapting the product to our user, we also want to make sure that it’s a culturally respectful environment.

Lastly, Pinterest has our Pin It button that allows users to pin something and save it to a board. One of our international teams in South America recognized that Pin It doesn’t translate. Our fastest growing user segments are outside the United States. Translating Pin It really made sense. They surfaced the idea that perhaps we could be more explicit that the point of Pin It is really saving to boards. Therefore, globally we made sure to roll out a Saving button. We saw a huge increase in international engagement for users whose primary language is not English.

Glassdoor: Great examples. To wrap up, here are a few fun questions. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

Candice Morgan: My first job was selling cop clothes to the New York Police Department.

Glassdoor: That is by far the most unusual job I’ve heard in a long time. That’s impressive.

Candice Morgan: I was 16 years old. I wore really wide legged-like parachute pants. I wanted to dye my hair blue at the time. The police officers who I worked with were also selling these cop clothes. They were like my big brothers. They would make fun of me because of my style and the fact that I was a 16-year-old girl hanging around mostly male police officers who were like bodybuilders. We had such an amazing rapport. Those guys are my buddies.

Glassdoor: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Candice Morgan: The most salient piece of career advice is: “No one said this was going to be easy, but they said it would be worth it.” There are a lot of days when everybody is confused and no one knows what to do next. Have we tried something that totally didn’t work? It’s really hard. It’s hard for me and my team but also everybody else trying with the best intentions to make a difference here at Pinterest. However, we felt so good at the end of the year when we were able to show that not only did we meet or exceed two out of our three goals, but we also learned something very fundamental about how to create a leadership team that features diversity and features role models that will impact our company for years to come.

Pinterest is a Jopwell partner company.

This post is by Amy Elisa Jackson and originally appeared on Glassdoor. It has been lightly edited and republished here with permission.

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