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What’s behind tech companies’ pledge to diversify

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 23, 2016
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Streaming programs like Spotify use algorithms to learn about our listening habits. 
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

More than 30 tech companies have signed a pledge to increase diversity among their workforces, including some big names like Spotify and Pinterest. The companies say they’ll recruit and retain more diverse workers, publish data on how many women and minorities work for them, and invest in partnerships to build a pipeline of diverse tech talent. 

“Our goal around hiring is to hire 30 percent women software engineers,” said Candice Morgan, head of diversity at Pinterest.

That is, Pinterest wants 30 percent of the software engineers they hire this year to be women.  They’re aiming for eight percent in minority hires. Right now, fewer than one percent of Pinterest’s software engineers are African American. 

“They’re still just getting started,” said Wayne Sutton, co-founder of Change Catalyst, which offers training for tech companies’ diversity staff.  Sutton wants a culture change.

“We all know the tech industry moves fast,” he said. “It moves fast on innovation. Why can’t it move fast on this?”

Pinterest’s Morgan said there’s a pipeline problem. There just aren’t enough women and minority tech graduates.

Kimberly Bryant is founder and CEO of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that introduces minority girls to tech.  Bryant said the pipeline may be part of the problem, but tech companies also need to change how they recruit.

“They either recruit at only the top universities, they rely heavily on referrals from current employees, which tends to lock people of color out,” she said.

Bryant said the pledge is a good step. But now she wants to see action plans from these tech companies, on the next step. 

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