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Pinterest, dominated by white and Asian workers, looks to diversify

Pinterest joins other tech companies in releasing underwhelming diversity data
Despite majority of female users, Pinterest workforce mostly male

Like many other big tech companies, Pinterest says it knows it has a problem with diversity, or lack thereof.

Despite having users who are overwhelmingly female, Pinterest’s employees are 60% male, and 92% of the company’s 400 employees are white or Asian.

In a blog post published Thursday, the photo-sharing social media giant revealed that only 21% of the San Francisco-based company’s tech positions are filled by women, and more than 80% of its executives are male.

These imbalances are common in the tech world, Pinterest software engineer Tracy Chou said in an interview with The Times. Chou has been advocating for diversity in the tech industry at Pinterest and in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley-based tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo have all published uninspiring diversity data over the last few weeks, and information collected by Chou breaking down gender in computer engineering reveals an industry-wide problem.

But Chou, with stints at Facebook and Quora before joining Pinterest, says the company is trying to change that. It is supporting programs promoting tech-friendly fields to under-served populations.

“The [tech] environment is not particularly friendly to minorities,” Chou said. “The industry is not doing a very good job at retaining diversity.”

Tech’s diversity problem can be traced to two intersecting issues, says Chou – a “pipeline problem” of not enough diversity in computer science and engineering college students, and a tendency for tech founders and employees to hire only people who look like themselves.

Chou said tech hiring practices usually aren’t maliciously keeping minorities out, but a lack of diversity awareness, especially early on, leads to festering and hard-to-solve problems down the road.

“Say you build up a team that’s 50 men to one woman,” Chou said. “It’s hard to course correct at that point.”

Especially for Pinterest, which serves a largely female user base, the lack of diversity can be glaring. Chou said the company is working on change, including a 32% female engineering intern class and by partnering with organizations like Girls Who Code to start expanding the talent pipeline.

Compared with similar companies, Pinterest does slightly better in terms of diversity of its tech team and overall gender makeup. Twitter, which released company-wide diversity data on Wednesday, is 70% male with women making up only 10% of tech workers.

Despite the underwhelming diversity numbers, Chou said working at Pinterest has been an enjoyable experience due to the company’s inclusive culture.

“This was the first place where I felt that I’m an engineer, not a female engineer,” she said.

For more tech news, follow @RileySnyder.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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