Pinterest says it has doubled its male user base, yet men are still just one-third of new signups

Long viewed as a female dominated website, Pinterest has doubled its male user base in the last year and now men compose a third of new signups, it said this week at an engineering event. That’s a significant increase for the company, whose user base has hovered at 70 to 80 percent women for years. It’s an important demographic expansion for the product as it matures, one that shows it’s a social network that can appeal to the public at large.

Until now, the application’s female consumer base has been self-perpetuating. Because the content is user generated and it took off with women early on, a lot of the pins are focused on stereotypically female interests, like home and garden. That created a steeper barrier to entry for men joining the site. Even as the application’s popularity exploded, the imbalance between the genders remained, far more so than with Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram.

The recent increase in male users didn’t happen of its own accord. Pinterest has been actively courting men, since hiring a man — David Rubin — in July to head up its brand efforts. At the time, Rubin told Digiday, “Growth is my mandate. There’s a large and incredibly committed user base. Expanding that into more audiences and expanding it globally is why I am here.” He then introduced gender targeting of pins, so when men first sign up they see more traditionally male content, like men’s clothing.

The company’s international expansion since 2013 has also helped. Pinterest spokesperson Malorie Lucich told me the gender split in emerging markets is closer to 50/50 than in the United States. Furthermore, it has partnered with companies like Home Depot and REI for tailored Pinterest content that’s more likely to appeal to men. There’s more to come in the future. “Next year we’re focused on improvements to the home feed to bring the best content to you based on your interests,” Lucich said.

Some have made the argument that part of the reason Pinterest has been overlooked despite its valuation and growth is because of its female audience. It’s an audience that’s not as reflected in the male dominated VC and tech founder world, and therefore there’s less industry excitement around the application.

It’s a stigma Pinterest no doubt wants to shuck as it scales to go public. At this point the company has raised $764 million at a $5 billion valuation, and it will need a substantial users base — not one restricted to half the nation’s population — to live up to it.