Pinterest's New Head of Diversity Explains Her Hiring Philosophy

  • Startup's hire comes week after Twitter named diversity chief
  • Candice Morgan aims to focus on Pinterest's recruiting method

Pinterest Inc. is the latest technology company to hire a head of diversity to recruit more women and minorities, as the industry faces criticism for its lack of representation.

The image-sharing website hired Candice Morgan, who previously worked for various companies’ diversity programs through Catalyst Inc., a nonprofit organization that seeks to expand opportunities for women and business. Pinterest is also starting two new programs in that vein: a year-long apprenticeship program for engineers from minority backgrounds and an early identification program to give internships to minority college freshmen.

Pinterest’s moves come a week after Twitter Inc. said it hired a head of diversity from Apple Inc., and the iPhone maker got hit with a shareholder complaint about representation on its board. Here’s what Pinterest’s new hire thinks about some of the more controversial topics around diversity:

On Quotas

Pinterest in July said it was setting quotas to increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 30 percent female, and 8 percent from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds. From now on, Morgan would prefer to call them “targets.”

“I’m not a fan of quotas,” she said. “Quotas are kind of fixed numbers that an organization wants to meet at any cost. And the goal is to aim for that target, but not at the expense of sacrificing those high standards and qualities that you look for in really strong people.”

On "Lowering Standards"

A comment on unwillingness to “lower our standards” is what got Sequoia venture capitalist Mike Moritz in trouble last month. Morgan said she thinks diversity can be achieved through different recruiting methods, and there are qualified people who might not know about the opportunity.

“When people automatically assume that diverse recruiting is lowering standards, or looking at different schools is lowering standards, they’re missing people,” she said. It’s important “to make the criteria for success very, very clear, and to apply those same criteria across all the people they talk to. I think that’s the same with anybody shooting for a career. They want to be tested, they want to work hard.”

The bias might come in the criteria, Morgan said. A job at Pinterest shouldn’t be dependent on what college you went to or whether you were a computer science major, she said.

On Recruiting

Finding the right people will depend on looking at avenues for recruiting differently, and trying to match Pinterest’s workforce to the potential talent pool, she said.

“If you’ve got 4.5 percent Latino people coming out of universities, we should be able to hire at that same rate,” she said. “I think if we see women coming out of programs just as fast and approaching half of graduates, then why aren’t we hiring that proportion?”

The company is removing language from its job applications that may turn off diverse candidates, she said. She describes their recruiting as “experimental.”

On “Culture Fit”

Many firms in Silicon Valley hire not only for skills, but for culture fit. Sometimes, “culture fit” can mean “someone you want to get a beer with,” and it could skew recruits to fit the demographics of the current organization. Morgan says firms need to put more of their focus on someone’s skills, and be clear about the parameters.

“It’s not a well-defined term,” she said “If you’re actually eliminating perfectly qualified people because you’re asking the wrong questions, that’s a problem.”

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