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Tech Industry

Pinterest launches diversity initiative, will share hiring goals with public

Digital-scrapbooking site announces partnership with startup to find strategies to increase staff diversity. It will share what works and what doesn't, in an aim to help the whole tech industry.

"Over time, we hope to build an industry that is truly diverse, and by extension, more inclusive, creative and effective," says Evan Sharp, co-founder of Pinterest. Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Pinterest is planning to build a more diverse workforce with a unusual new strategy it hopes will be a model for the tech industry.

The digital-scrapbooking site announced Thursday it is setting specific goals to hire more women and minorities and plans to share its findings with the public. For the past seven months, the company has been working with Paradigm, a startup that works with tech companies on diversity and will be co-piloting a new initiative called Inclusion Labs.

The company will disclose its findings on what's working or not with the public so the entire tech industry can gain some insight along the way, Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp said in a blog post.

"By sharing these goals publicly, we're holding ourselves accountable to make meaningful changes to how we approach diversity at Pinterest," he said. "Over time, we hope to build an industry that is truly diverse, and by extension, more inclusive, creative and effective."

Apparently, Pinterest is taking a step beyond other companies that say they want more diversity in technology as the debate ensues on finding solutions. Pinterest and other tech heavyweights including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, released reports last year that showed about 70 percent of their employees worldwide are male and almost 65 percent of the workforce in the United States is white.

Pinterest has released some workforce demographics. Pinterest

Pinterest on Thursday released some workforce demographics, showing about 42 percent of employees are women, about half the company is white and 43 percent Asian. Pinterest also added that Hispanics account for 2 percent and blacks only 1 percent of its overall workforce. Meanwhile, the company's leadership is 47 percent white and 42 percent Asian.

As part of its diversity goals, Pinterest wants to increase its hiring rates for full-time engineering jobs to 30 percent for women and 8 percent for minorities as well as 12 percent for minorities in non-engineering jobs.

Additionally, the company will implement a "Rooney Rule," similar to the National Football League, in this case where at least one minority and one female is interviewed for every open leadership position.

Pinterest has already started collecting data beyond its demographic numbers, including separating engineering jobs from technical positions, said Joelle Emerson, CEO and founder of Paradigm. She said her company reached out to Pinterest earlier this year about a possible collaboration.

"This is really an ambitious and bold step for Pinterest to be sharing publicly what the research shows," she said. "We plan to be very transparent."

Paradigm is also training Pinterest managers on how to write unbiased performance reviews, and training promotion committee members to identify potential areas of bias in promotion decisions, she added.

And, Pinterest is expanding its recruiting efforts to colleges and universities with more diverse student populations. The company is also examining its hiring process, including eliminating that all engineering interview candidates code on whiteboards, and candidates referred by employees will no longer be given priority, Pinterest spokeswoman Jamie Favazza said.

Also, every Pinterest employee will participate in training to prevent unconscious bias and the company will be launching a training and mentoring program for black software engineers, the company said.

Noted civil rights activist, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been pressuring Silicon Valley to diversify its ranks, on Thursday said Pinterest's approach stood in stark contrast compared to other tech companies that would serve well to emulate its strategy.

"Pinterest is putting a huge stake in the ground by setting specific, measurable goals, targets and a 2016 timetable to achieve its diversity and inclusion goals," said Jackson in a statement. "We have said, 'If you don't measure it, you don't mean it.' Clearly, Pinterest means it."