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Protocol | Workplace

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.

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