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Pinterest Sounds More Contrite After Former Black Employees Speak Out


After a week of hijacking criticism from two former black employees about their work experiences for Pinterest, the Silicon Valley company is taking a new position of apology.

This comes after former employees castigated Pinterest in tweets that claimed the social media company had discriminated against them and was insensitive to its black workers, even though it professed to support Black Lives Matter. The two women left the company.

“We never want someone to feel the way Ifeoma [Ozoma] and Aerica [Shimizu Banks] “A spokesperson said in a statement.” We are committed to taking the steps we have outlined to our employees immediately and are actively pursuing this work. “

Pinterest initially issued a statement saying, “We are confident that the two employees were treated fairly.” Now this confirms that CEO Ben Silbermann sent an email to employees saying the company needs to do better.

In the email, first reported by Bloomberg, Silbermann said that he had learned in recent weeks that “parts of our culture are broken” and added: “I am very sorry to have let you down. ” He also outlined a list of steps the company will take, including strengthening diversified representation at higher levels and improving understanding and awareness of racism and prejudice.

The story of Ozoma

Many people consider San Francisco-based Pinterest as one of the friendliest places to work in technology, and this is what initially led Ozoma to become responsible for public policy and social impact in July 2018, following his previous job on Facebook.

“I thought, ‘This is a company that believes in diversity, or at least says it is,’ she said. But less than a year later, Ozoma worried about being under -paid for the level of work she did there.

“I was not paid fairly, and according to the company’s own schedule,” she said. But “I was still the public face of all the work that was used to support the company as a responsible tech company in a sea of ‚Äč‚Äčirresponsible.”

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In recent weeks, companies across America have gone out of their way to declare their corporate ally with Black Lives Matter. Silicon Valley companies did the same, but it generated public reactions from current and former black employees. Ozoma’s tweet thread last week went viral.

Ozoma said that at Pinterest she led a number of initiatives that she really liked, such as eliminating vaccine misinformation on Pinterest. She said she also got the platform to end her promotions of slave plantations as wedding venues – although she then took heat in her performance appraisal and was told that it was because she had not also presented the arguments in favor of continuing the practice.

“I should have found pros to promote the slave plantations. Like today, I think about it and the fact that it was written – in a performance evaluation which then had an impact on my pay”, said Ozoma. “Even if externally, the company really benefited from the press that came with this decision.”

After going around in circles with his manager, manager and human resources for five months, Ozoma finally hired a lawyer. The office atmosphere was already busy when a white engineer from the company decided to share their personal information with an online group known for “doxxing” or to publish someone’s personal information online.

“My cell phone number, full name, photo, and email were shared on the Internet,” said Ozoma. “It was on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, the ‘chans’, so 4chan and 8chan.”

Ozoma said the engineer was fired a week later, but at that time she was traumatized – as were Banks, another black colleague on her team whom she had brought to Pinterest.

“Our black lives were treated as if they didn’t matter,” said Banks, who left Google to head Pinterest’s Washington DC office. The banks said they hired Ozoma’s lawyer after his own difficulties with their manager and their human resources.

The banks said it “interacted with members of Congress; traveled across the country speaking at panels and events; represented society. And yet the only expenses I have accrued that have been challenged, in Continuous, were the expenses dedicated to black organizations and black businesses that I had “in partnership,” she said.

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Like Ozoma, banks tweeted his dissatisfaction with Pinterest.

Thirteen percent of the American population is black. But according to Pinterest’s annual diversity report, blacks accounted for about 4% of its total workforce last year. This puts Pinterest in line with many other tech companies reporting their numbers in an industry long dominated by white and Asian men.

Let’s take some of the most recent data on blacks in the business: 9% at Apple, 3.8% at Facebook, 5.5% at Google, 3.7% at Oracle, 4.4% at Slack, 5.7% at Twitter.

Should Silicon Valley companies even issue statements in support of racial justice? Yes, said Sarah Kunst, managing director of Cleo Capital, a venture capital firm in the start-up phase in San Francisco.

“You know, it would be very embarrassing in this context if you told me that my life didn’t matter,” said Kunst. “I think it’s a bare minimum. It’s far from anything anyone should do.”

Google, Facebook and other companies have blamed their lack of black workers for a “pipeline” problem, arguing that there are not enough qualified people to hire, particularly in their technical departments.

But many Silicon Valley observers disagree. Kunst, for example, said that he observed a number of hiring managers on a short list of Ivy League universities unable to broaden their definition of “qualified”.

She added that it is important to get rid of the people who make the corporate culture toxic to black employees and to chase them away.

“This seems like a great time to dig deep and redesign to create a culture that everyone loves and everyone is welcome,” said Kunst, noting that many executives in Silicon Valley are already rethinking their corporate culture during the pandemic coronavirus.

“A few years ago, companies [and] people couldn’t even say the word “race”. Like, not a particular breed, just the word ‘race, “said Y-Vonne Hutchinson of ReadySet, a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting company that works with a number of Silicon Valley businesses.” The fact that the conversation has changed away in such a short time is encouraging. At the same time, it takes more than just statements. How is this really inside your organization? Can black people succeed? “

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Hutchinson added: “For many of these companies, we see investments in recruitment. We see people going through the door.” But she said many of them were leaving “and often it is because they are micro-assaulted. They experience racism at work, and there is no responsibility for it.”

Karla Monterroso, CEO of the Diversity-Focused 2040 Code for Diversity, said companies need to focus less on job fairs and instead turn to the internal work needed to become welcoming places for more Black and Latinx employees.

“You will not get the full benefit from their thoughts and innovation,” she said, when it is dangerous for them to swim against the tide. “Advocacy for people of color, especially blacks, will look like insubordination to many people. Until we look at it,” added Monterroso, “it will have a disproportionate impact on our place of job.”



Source: NPR

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