Pinterest Is Working With A Startup Called Paradigm To Foster Diversity

Diversity is a hot-button issue, and an issue that many tech companies can’t seem to figure out how to solve.

That’s where Paradigm comes in. Paradigm works with fast-growing companies like Slack and Pinterest to help them identify where the biggest barriers to diversity are coming into play, Paradigm Founder and CEO Joelle Emerson tells me. It does this through both quantitative and qualitative analysis to identify potential patterns of biases and disparities. Today, Pinterest formally announced its new initiative in partnership with Paradigm called Inclusion Labs.

“Pinterest just laid out a road map for other tech companies to follow,” BuildUp co-founder Wayne Sutton says. “Their new diversity efforts add concrete goals plus accountability from leadership, throughout the entire organization by setting an ambitious goal to hire and mentor to create a diverse workforce that will position Pinterest as a leader.”

As part of the initiative, Pinterest has set goals like increasing hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30% female, and interviewing at least one person from an underrepresented background and one woman every open leadership position.

Pinterest intends to reach those goals with the help of Paradigm. Paradigm looks at things like how a company attracts potential candidates, who or what type of person generally receives good reviews in interviews, and the processes for giving promotions and determining compensation. The next step is designing strategies based on social science research to address those barriers.

At Pinterest, Emerson says Paradigm works cross-functionally, with key stakeholders in human resources, recruiting and even senior leadership. In seven months, Paradigm has already affected aspects of Pinterest’s hiring process for engineers by convincing the company to get rid of “whiteboarding” in technical interviews.

Whiteboarding — standing up in front of a potential employer and writing code as quickly, accurately and concisely as you can — has become a fairly standard process for engineering interviews. But, Paradigm’s independent research and anecdotal evidence showed that whiteboarding is not a good strategy for finding qualified women to hire. Emerson says they found that women who perform on par with men in computer coding interviews are evaluated more poorly in whiteboarding interviews.

“So these are women who have proven their technical chops in computer coding, but just underperform in whiteboarding specifically,” Emerson says.

Now, everyone has the option to code on their computer for the engineering interview at Pinterest. The next step, Emerson says, is measuring the impact and seeing if it has any positive results.

Paradigm also held a workshop for Pinterest’s senior leaders on unconscious bias. The workshop explored how they can minimize biases as individuals, as leaders of an organization and in the structures and processes they use to develop the organization.

“One of the things I’m most excited about in working with Pinterest is the buy-in from senior leadership,” Emerson says. “I think it’s critical. I think it’s very hard to see any success on this if efforts are only coming from the ground up. I think grassroots efforts are excellent — they’re really important, but if you don’t have senior leaders buying in, it’s just really hard to have an impact.”

It’s not a huge surprise that Pinterest is doing this. At Re/code’s Code conference in May, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann highlighted the company’s focus on gender diversity, noting how women make up 40 percent of the overall company, and about 20 percent of the technical staff. He also credited Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou for instigating tech companies to release their data around employee demographics.

Still, Silbermann said the number of women in leadership roles at Pinterest could improve. He also noted that gender is just a starting point for Pinterest, and that they want to continue looking for the best people from different backgrounds.

You can learn more about what Pinterest is up to over on the company’s blog.