Pinterest lowers its goal for female engineer hires

It's an acknowledgment that diversity isn't an easy target.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Pinterest aimed to make itself a role model for diversity in tech in 2016, but the year didn't quite work out that way... and the company is setting its sights lower as a result. The social site reports that it increased the number of women in its workforce to 26 percent in 2016, but it only increased the ratio of engineers to 22 percent -- far short of the 30 percent it wanted. It's now aiming for 25 percent in 2017. While the team still wants to get to 30 percent, it says it's "likely going to take more than 12 months" to reach that goal.

The company partly blames the shortfall on its own hiring strategy. Its focus was on hiring women as senior engineers, which takes longer than standard-level workers. Pinterest is addressing this in part through expanding its use of a "Rooney Rule" (where it interviews at least one woman and one person from an underrepresented group) for recruitment beyond executive positions.

This isn't to say that Pinterest fell short across the board. It easily hit its goals for adding people from underrepresented groups, including both engineers (now at 9 percent) and everyone else (12 percent). However, the figures make clear that diversity in tech is difficult, and isn't simply a matter of setting targets and waiting for a broader demographic to walk through the door. Candidates have to get an opportunity to prove themselves, as Pinterest notes. Also, there's the matter of fostering greater interest in the first place. Tech giants are taking steps to encourage women to code after decades of discouragement, but these efforts might not bear fruit for years.