Pinterest has named the first Black member to the social media network’s board of directors, following allegations of racism at the company.
Andrea Wishom, president at Skywalker Holdings and formerly with Harpo Productions and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” was appointed to the board on Monday.
A press release quoted Pinterest CEO and co-founder Ben Silbermann, who called Wishom a “passionate advocate for building a company culture of respect, integrity, inclusion and support” and noted that Pinterest needed to improve in those areas.
“I’ve been a Pinner since 2011 and having a one-of-a-kind platform that helps us achieve our goals and dreams is needed now more than ever,” Wishom said in the release. “Part of meeting this moment is looking outside the expected and bringing different perspectives to the table,” she added. “There are real challenges to address, and that responsibility is not lost on me. I’m committed to listening and sharing my perspective and providing guidance as Pinterest continues to make positive strides forward.”
Pinterest, a platform where users can “pin” images and articles to digital clipboards for sharing and organizational purposes, is known for its popularity among women, with an estimated 71% of its users identifying as female. The company harped upon its increased hiring of female engineers and underrepresented minorities in January, but was accused of racism and poor pay by former employees Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks in June and July.
Both women, along with several other anonymous employees, told The Washington Post that Black employees were often treated condescendingly by white peers, including one instance where “an executive joked” that a Black woman should act like a “servant” at a team dinner. On Twitter, Ozoma wrote that the company’s messages of solidarity with Black Lives Matter rang false, and that she had previously been “doxxed by a white male colleague” and faced internal retaliation from management for attempting to limit health misinformation on the platform and the dissemination of material showing weddings at former slave plantations.
Following these allegations, a campaign demanding that Pinterest increase pay for Black employees garnered over 25,000 signatures, the website #changeatpinterest was created pledging solidarity with Ozoma and Banks, and company employees staged an Aug 14 walkout to demand change. CEO Silbermann acknowledged that Pinterest “needs to be better” in the aftermath of the walkout and promised to name a person of color to its board by the end of the year.
Following the news about Wishom, Ozoma tweeted that the company was “distracting from the issues at hand.” She wrote that Pinterest was attempting to assuage Black employees with a “transparently tokenistic action,” pointing out that the same managers she said had discriminated against her and her colleagues were still employed.