Pinterest: Abby Maldonado on How Listening Helps Build More Diverse and Inclusive Companies

Abby Maldonado speaking with Pinterest COO, Evan Sharp, and Change Catalyst Co-founder, Melinda Epler, at Tech Inclusion 2016

By Jared Karol

“Diversity is a topic that is really challenging,” says Abby Maldonado, Diversity Programs Specialist at Pinterest. “It’s personal, and it has a lot of different definitions to a lot of people.” And that’s why she says so much of the work to create more diverse and inclusive tech ecosystems revolves around education and awareness building. People need to understand that a more inclusive and diverse company is a better and stronger company that produces better products.

Abby says that “any time that you are trying to get people to understand difference — or perspectives that are different from their own — there’s always hesitation for change.” Change can be scary, and that’s exactly why we must take on the challenge and create positive environments where people feel like that they have a safe space to talk.

And Abby is all about taking on the challenge. One of her core areas of focus at Pinterest is building out internal communities of groups that are underrepresented — for example, a women’s group and an LGBT group — that expand throughout the entire organization. From recruiting to retaining talent, Abby works to make sure that people are represented at all levels.

To be able to do that though, Abby says, you must “understand what the current state is within your organization for whatever characteristic you’re trying to amplify or focus on.” In other words, you have to be honest and own up to where you not very diverse and inclusive to all different types of people. Once you can identify where you need to strengthen you can start thinking of strategies to increase the representation of those groups in your company.

How do you go about doing that? By listening, Abby says: “We have a lot to learn from listening and intaking and actually understanding what people are saying.” Then you can start making plans and putting systems in place that will attract and retain the people from underrepresented groups who you want to bring into your company. Once you understand what kind of environment different people are going to expect and appreciate, you can take concrete steps to make your company more appealing, such as tweaking the messaging on your website, shifting the language in your job descriptions, and conducting your interviews with an increased awareness of the diversity of people you’re talking to.

A lot of the work is getting people to shift their minds and see diversity as an asset. By having a plethora of perspectives represented within a company, it automatically creates safer spaces because every person, no matter their background, feels validated and a sense of belonging. When we listen to what people want, it’s really not that hard to go about putting those things in place.

Listen to the full podcast here or below.

About Change Catalyst:

Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through events, consulting, research and training.

Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.

Our Startup Ecosystem programs help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund worldchanging businesses.

Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World”​ award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World”​ overall in 2015.

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The Change Catalyst Team
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