Politics

A year after blockbuster accusations and lawsuits, Pinterest says it's 'committed to doing better'

Pinterest believes "every employee should feel safe."

Pinterest board on a computer

Pinterest's latest diversity report comes about a year after the company faced a wave of discrimination allegations.

Photo: Szabo Viktor/Unsplash

Pinterest has spent much of the last year on the defensive in light of a number of discrimination allegations and lawsuits. In its latest diversity report, Pinterest said it's committed to improving its culture and "doing better."

Pinterest's workforce follows a familiar pattern. Although women make up 49% of Pinterest's global workforce, they represent 30% of its leadership team, up from 25% in 2019, and 29% of its global engineering team, also up from 25% in 2019.

"The initiatives we have put in place are showing progress," Marie Andel, Pinterest's chief human resources officer, told Protocol via email. "I believe that our employees are our experts and they are helping to change the lived experience at Pinterest. This work is critical."

Andel said she's most proud about the increase in female leadership numbers and "the work that has been done to introduce increased compensation range and level transparency."

Pinterest, however, remains largely a white company. Since last year, representation of Black employees at Pinterest increased slightly, from 4% to 5%, Latinx representation increased from 6% to 7%, Asian representation remained at 44% and the representation of Indigenous employees and those who identify with two or more races both remained at 1%.

Pinterest also pointed to its two new Black board members. In August, Pinterest announced its first Black board member, Andrea Wishom. The company added a second Black board member, Salaam Coleman Smith, in October.

Pinterest does not share retention numbers, but Andel said Pinterest's "commitment to building a more inclusive company continues." She also mentioned Pinterest has formed an Inclusion Advisory Council, an independent group to help hold the company accountable to its goals.

By 2025, Pinterest aims to increase women in leadership roles to 36% and increase representation of Black, Latinx and Indigenous employees to 20%.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increased discussion awareness of racial injustice in the U.S. in the past year, "pushed us to have important conversations internally and reinforced that we need to be deliberate about our own culture," Andel said.

"We listened to employees as they shared their experiences and we are committed to doing better," she said. "We believe every employee should feel safe, championed and empowered to raise any concerns about their work experience and have new systems in place to allow this."

Pinterest is also launching an ombuds program, which will provide a neutral third party for employees to have confidential discussions with about workplace conflicts.

A rocky year

Although Pinterest's numbers show progress in DEI, numbers infamously do not tell the whole story.

Last June, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who are both Black women, alleged racial and gender discrimination at Pinterest. Then, in August, former Pinterest COO Françoise Brougher sued the company alleging gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout in the days following Brougher's lawsuit. Employees also circulated a petition seeking more transparency around promotion levels, retention and total compensation packages.

Pinterest later agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle the lawsuit. That hefty sum sparked conversations about the different outcomes for Brougher, a white woman, compared to Ozoma and Banks. While Brougher walked away with a $20 million payout, with the rest going to charity, Ozoma and Banks previously told me they received less than one year's worth of severance.

"It's about as plain a case of disparate treatment and discrimination as you can come up with," Ozoma said at the time.

Banks added, "This follows the time-honored tradition in America where Black women come forward, blazing a trail, revealing injustice and white women coming in and reaping all the benefits of that."

Ozoma's experience at Pinterest motivated her to co-author the Silenced No More Act, which aims to ban non-disclosure agreements that restrict workers from speaking out about racial discrimination and other forms of abuse. Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann in April threw Pinterest's support behind the bill, adding at the time that Pinterest will no longer require employees to sign NDAs that would prevent them from talking about their personal experiences at Pinterest once they leave.

The policy, however, does not apply retroactively, and Pinterest will not release former employees from pre-existing NDAs. "I'm not on the legal team but what I can say is that if we have a completed contract with a former employee we wouldn't go back and amend it," Andel said.

Climate

A pro-China disinformation campaign is targeting rare earth miners

It’s uncommon for cyber criminals to target private industry. But a new operation has cast doubt on miners looking to gain a foothold in the West in an apparent attempt to protect China’s upper hand in a market that has become increasingly vital.

It is very uncommon for coordinated disinformation operations to target private industry, rather than governments or civil society, a cybersecurity expert says.

Photo: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just when we thought the renewable energy supply chains couldn’t get more fraught, a sophisticated disinformation campaign has taken to social media to further complicate things.

Known as Dragonbridge, the campaign has existed for at least three years, but in the last few months it has shifted its focus to target several mining companies “with negative messaging in response to potential or planned rare earths production activities.” It was initially uncovered by cybersecurity firm Mandiant and peddles narratives in the Chinese interest via its network of thousands of fake social media accounts.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Some of the most astounding tech-enabled advances of the next decade, from cutting-edge medical research to urban traffic control and factory floor optimization, will be enabled by a device often smaller than a thumbnail: the memory chip.

While vast amounts of data are created, stored and processed every moment — by some estimates, 2.5 quintillion bytes daily — the insights in that code are unlocked by the memory chips that hold it and transfer it. “Memory will propel the next 10 years into the most transformative years in human history,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and CEO of Micron Technology.

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Ripple’s CEO threatens to leave the US if it loses SEC case

CEO Brad Garlinghouse said a few countries have reached out to Ripple about relocating.

"There's no doubt that if the SEC doesn't win their case against us that that is good for crypto in the United States,” Brad Garlinghouse told Protocol.

Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said the crypto company will move to another country if it loses in its legal battle with the SEC.

Garlinghouse said he’s confident that Ripple will prevail against the federal regulator, which accused the company of failing to register roughly $1.4 billion in XRP tokens as securities.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Policy

The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling is bad news for tech regulation, too

The justices just gave themselves a lot of discretion to smack down agency rules.

The ruling could also endanger work on competition issues by the FTC and net neutrality by the FCC.

Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

The Supreme Court’s decision last week gutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn’t just signal the conservative justices’ dislike of the Clean Air Act at a moment of climate crisis. It also served as a warning for anyone that would like to see more regulation of Big Tech.

At the heart of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in West Virginia v. EPA was a codification of the “major questions doctrine,” which, he wrote, requires “clear congressional authorization” when agencies want to regulate on areas of great “economic and political significance.”

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Enterprise

Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

Microsoft said accessibility goals overrode problems with emotion recognition and Google offers off-the-shelf emotion recognition technology amid growing concern over the controversial AI.

Emotion recognition is a well-established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

In fact, amid growing concerns over development and use of controversial emotion recognition in everyday software, both Microsoft and Google continue to incorporate the AI-based features in their products.

“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins