Pinterest Testing “Implicit Bias Training” For Managers

Diversity is a running theme across this year’s Code conference, but unlike some of the other CEO guests, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann was well-versed on what the diversity statistics are at his company.

Pinterest, thanks largely to the efforts of Tracy Chou, a prominent software engineer, released its first global diversity report last July, with the results showing that Pinterest was 60% male, 50% Caucasian, 42% Asian, which, though far from ideal, look progressive when compared with Google’s at 70% male and 61% Caucasian and Facebook’s at 69% male and 57% Caucasian.

When asked by Walt Mossberg whether those numbers were enough for him, Silbermann replied, “We made progress, but there is a big gap from where we want to be ideally.” He then gave props to Chou, who, by asking to reveal Pinterest’s diversity numbers, set off a wave of similar diversity reports across the Valley.

Silbermann further revealed that 20% of Pinterest’s technical staff is female, in addition to 1/3 of incoming engineers and 1/3 of its intern class. Its head of sales and CFO are both women.

“Tracy Chou made people have more substantive conversations around the topic,” he said. “She asked [to do it], and she deserves credit for doing it. She set up a Github account for doing it.

When asked by Mossberg what Pinterest was doing to increase diversity beyond reporting its numbers, Silbermann said the solution lies in “putting the right programs in place”, which is usually difficult for HR-challenged startups.

One of those programs, according to Silbermann, is an “Implicit Bias Training” program, which he said was being rolled out for managers currently.

When asked what an implicit bias training would involve, Joelle Emerson, who runs diversity consultancy Paradigm explained, “I can’t speak to what Pinterest’s training will involve, and the trainings we provide are tailored for each company, but generally we would outline the areas in which bias is most likely to come into play at work. And then in each area, offer specific strategies a person could start using tomorrow to minimize bias.” She said these types of programs were increasingly popular in the Valley as more employers get hip to diversity.

Silbermann also mentioned a program for new Pinterest employee parents, “I don’t feel any of those things are sufficient, but we’re moving where we want to be,” he said.

Pinterest recently raised a Series G of $553 million at an $11 billion valuation, which is $550 million more than when I first covered it in 2010, when Myspace had bitten its style. In the past five years, it’s accumulated tens of billions of pins, launched promoted pins and an ad targeting product, acquired a couple of smaller companies, hired a badass head of partnerships and joined the decacorn club.

Like other decacorns, Pinterest now has its eyes set on international expansion, with 40% of all users coming from outside the US. And diversity of course, all of the diversities.