Diversity at Duolingo: Why it’s important to us and the progress we’ve made

Here are two fast facts about Duolingo that you may not have known before:

  1. Our products are used by people from every country in the world.
  2. Over half of the learners of our main product, the Duolingo learning app, are women.

One of our key company operating principles is “learners first”: our mission and entire reason for existing is to make sure everyone in the world has access to high-quality language education. To develop a product that meets the diverse needs of our learners, the teams within Duolingo must reflect the diversity of those learners.

Of the 175 or so people who work at Duolingo, our employees represent 25 different countries and speak over 15 languages fluently. But we know we need to continue to press forward to increase the types of diversity represented at the company – specifically in terms of women and people of color.

During the 2017-2018 university recruitment season, we had a ton of success bringing in a new college graduate engineering class of 50% men and women.

Recruiting a diverse group of new hires for 2019

For the 2018-2019 university recruiting season, we wanted to build on the success we had in the previous year. We set a goal of 50% female representation, 50% people of color representation, and we also wanted to double our total number of hires from the previous year.

In tackling these goals, our plan was to target top computer science programs with diverse student populations. We found that active and diversity-focused computing clubs were strong indicators of a university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion at a larger scale, so we also prioritized schools that had active student organizations.

During our interview process, we didn’t just probe for technical acumen, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities – as a strongly mission-driven company, we also asked every candidate “Why Duolingo?” We want to make sure that everyone joining has a unique, personal mission that would support and add to the larger Duolingo mission.

Where did we land?

Our most recent recruitment process differed from previous ones in a few key ways, which contributed to an increased level of diversity among our new hires this year. We recruited later into the university recruitment cycle, meaning we were interviewing and extending offers several months later than we had in any years previously (we had only recruited people in the senior year between September and November to start the year after; this year we kept recruiting until May). This approach opened up new talent pools of people who were still studying and preparing for interviews in order to perfect them. Most of our hires straight from universities came through our jobs page, compared to previous years when most came through on-campus career fairs and events. This accessibility helped us reach a wider and more diverse audience than ever before.

We are now in the midst of onboarding our largest hiring class yet. Among our new graduates, we again met our goal of 50% female, exceeded people of color goal (we achieved 70%), and doubled the size of the class.

We are proud to have exceeded our goal for this year, and it was due in large part to expanding our online reach in recruiting university students, investing more time at schools that prioritize diversity in their computer science departments, and screening candidates for alignment with Duolingo’s mission (as we do for all candidates).

Why does this matter?

Aside from helping our team better connect and empathize with our learners, focusing on growing our team’s diversity helps us all perform our best and continue to put out world-class products that touch the lives of over 300 million people and counting. And it’s not just us: research has proven that diverse teams work smarter. We’re still by no means perfect and are already thinking about how to improve our diversity even more next year and beyond, but our hiring results over the past two years have been encouraging and something we’re proud to have achieved.

At the end of the day, our mission is at the root of everything that we do. It’s hard, if not impossible, to deliver on our mission of making education free and accessible for everyone without a diverse team to operationalize this. Not only is our mission good for the world, but it is one of the key factors that has helped us organically attract diverse and talented people to join us and help us continue to make a lasting impact on people’s lives.