Pinterest Is Looking To Tackle “Belonging Uncertainty”

Through Pinterest’s partnership with diversity consulting startup Paradigm, the company is gearing up to test an intervention process aimed at addressing “belonging uncertainty,” which can potentially inhibit the performance of those who experience it. Paradigm is designing an intervention process that Pinterest, as well as other tech companies, can implement in order to address the issue.

Belonging uncertainty is about people entering a new environment, like a new school or job, and spending mental energy to determine whether or not they’ll belong, Paradigm Partner Carissa Romero wrote on Medium today. That concern can be a lot more pronounced for people from underrepresented groups in particular environments, according to research by the American Psychological Association.

“When something good happens, they feel like they probably do belong, but when they have a negative experience, they’re more likely to question whether they belong,” Romero wrote. “This means that instead of focusing all of their mental energy on their work, some mental energy is expended on trying to figure out whether or not they belong by interpreting information from the environment around them. As a result, belonging uncertainty can prevent people from performing to their true potential.”

At Pinterest, Paradigm has been testing the hypothesis that belonging uncertainty might exist among underrepresented groups in tech companies. Using survey prompts from previous academic belonging uncertainty research, Paradigm has already found that women new to Pinterest have experienced more belonging uncertainty than men.

Paradigm also found that people who feel more confident about their belonging at Pinterest are more likely to feel better about their performance at work.

“This study is an important step in understanding how to build a more inclusive environment,” a Pinterest spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re in the early stages of designing a program to help all employees feel certain they belong at Pinterest from day one. We hope other companies can benefit from this study, and we’ll share additional findings as they become available.”

Ideally, Paradigm would like to test this hypothesis more broadly at other tech companies because the larger the numbers, the better, Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson told me. Paradigm also works with tech companies like Slack, Airbnb and Asana, and is reaching out to those companies today with the hope that they will get on board the intervention train. You can read more about the study on Medium.