Pinterest raises $50 million to make the web safer for women

The world’s biggest online community of DIY enthusiasts will invest at least $50 million to promote online progress on anti-discrimination efforts, starting with updates to its platform for women.

On Tuesday, Pinterest announced that it would pour resources into removing gender-based, age-based and other forms of age discrimination. In the U.S., more than 11% of ratings on projects were rejected based on age, and more than 6% based on gender. Women were also four times as likely to be rejected for projects.

“Discrimination harms women, people of color, transgender and non-binary people, seniors, people with disabilities, and anyone else living in a heteronormative world,” Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann wrote in a company blog post. “Across the culture, we see people wanting a society that’s free of discrimination based on gender, sexuality, age, race, culture, class, disability, religion, and more.”

The grants will also invest in additional support services for a better workplace culture, including role playing and job shadowing programs for people with disabilities.

Although Pinterest doesn’t do a lot to prohibit discrimination outright, the company is working to show people that more can be done to fight sexual harassment and discrimination, said Michelle Brown, an economist and author of “The Stampede.”

“This is a clear signal that they know that they have problems on the way and they want to do something about it,” Brown said.

Pinterest says it will also be more vigilant to make sure company workers feel safe and welcome on its platform.

“Our commitment to fairness and equity is central to Pinterest’s mission,” Silbermann wrote. “We believe everyone deserves to be treated fairly, to make choices and progress with confidence and knowledge, and to be free from discrimination. This belief also underpins everything we do to drive gender equity in our work and at home.”

Reformed policies

Pinterest has been facing questions about its stance on discrimination following BuzzFeed’s 2017 investigation into its culture of sexual harassment and discrimination, including explicit language in employee-generated content.

Several of the company’s team members chose to leave following a restructuring last year, and the company has been trying to strengthen its policies, Brown said. Pinterest will change the language in the website to include inclusive language around age, gender, sexual orientation and more.

Brown expects those changes will bring much-needed progress to working women and other marginalized groups.

“They are going to get rid of language that’s demeaning to older employees and inclusion clauses in their contracts that define where they work as making them a human resources liability, and that language will go away,” Brown said.

The company will also be expanding its training to help workers recognize age discrimination and other forms of discrimination, as well as offering life coaching to employees.

Other tech companies have also recently made significant investments in anti-discrimination measures. Facebook increased its annual salary for all employees, including contractors, to at least $150,000 by 2020. Amazon and Google also increased their year-end salaries to at least $150,000 after settlement negotiations with the Department of Labor, and Uber has adopted a policy to pay all employees at least $70,000 by 2022.

In 2017, Pinterest started helping female engineers, software developers and chief technology officers secure their fair pay through an awards program. Starting this year, its guides to fair and inclusive treatment at work will include more information on gender-based discrimination and age discrimination.

Some updates to Pinterest’s app, which was built in Berlin, Germany, will also be made through these changes.

“It is common knowledge that women still face many forms of discrimination in our society, and in our industries,” Silbermann wrote. “Our approach to building technology to improve people’s lives also means bringing awareness of this reality to our staff and shaping our culture around values of inclusion and empathy.”

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