After setting ambitious goals for its efforts in diversity, Pinterest on Friday released its 2016 diversity report, which shows some of the most significant progress made hiring women and minorities at Silicon Valley firms.
But rather than expand on those accomplishments, Pinterest said it will merely maintain the goals it introduced last year and even lowered one of the goals -- that of increasing the hiring rate of women in tech positions.
"While the progress they've made and transparency they have in the process is heartening, it's disappointing to hear they are scaling back on their goals," said Sarah Kunst, a proponent of the tech diversity movement and the founder of Proday, a fitness app.
In 2016, Pinterest increased its representation of women in tech from 21 percent to 26 percent. Overall representation of women increased from 42 percent a year ago to 44 percent now. Its representation of blacks went up from 1 percent to 2 percent while Hispanics saw growth from 2 percent a year ago to 4 percent in 2016. Total blacks and Hispanics in technical roles grew from 3 percent a year ago to 5 percent now.
Laying out its goals, Pinterest last year said it hoped to increase its hiring of women engineers to 30 percent, hiring of underrepresented engineers to 8 percent and the hiring of underrepresented employees to non-tech roles to 12 percent of new hires. The company hit on non-tech minorities, it surpassed its goal for minorities in tech jobs by one percentage point and it increased its hiring rate of women engineers to 22 percent, which was short of its goal. Heading into 2017, Pinterest said it will maintain its goals for people of color but will lower its ambitions for women in tech, saying it hopes to increase its hiring rate of that demographic to 25 percent of its tech hires next year.
"Last year we decided to create goals to increase the diversity of our team and share them publicly," said Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann in a note Friday. "Our efforts improved our hiring process and resulted in the most diverse team Pinterest has had to date."
Though this progress is more modest than many in the tech diversity community would like to see, it is among the most notable -- if not the outright most notable -- gains Silicon Valley has seen since companies began releasing diversity reports in 2014. Pinterest is among the few companies in tech that has included goals in its reports, and the stats appear to show that sharing those goals publicly aided the company in its efforts to increase the hiring of women and minorities while improving their retention. So why scale back its ambitions now?
"While we didn't reach the women in engineering goal, we did increase the numbers of women in technical roles and engineering (as well as for all other roles across underrepresented groups)," a spokeswoman for Pinterest told Inc. "We also made strides in the hiring of female engineering leaders, including our head of engineering Li Fan. As one of the first and only tech companies to publicly share hiring goals, we're committed to continuing to this progress."
This diversity report is not without its sore spots. The company still has no African-Americans in leadership, for example, and the report was released more than 16 months after the company's previous report. But for the most part, Pinterest is a clear leader in these efforts. It has propped up its diverse employees, made key hires, shared its tactics and clearly shown results. Others in tech look to leaders like Pinterest for guidance.
What kind of message is sent when Pinterest says it will simply lower and maintain goals?
"To me, this signals complacency," said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, diversity consultant and co-founder of Project Include, an organization that works with tech companies to help them improve their diversity. "When it comes to diversity and inclusion, complacent companies don't succeed. I would not be surprised if they lost a few of these gains over the course of next year."