Enlarge /. A Pinterest logo on a smartphone.
The former chief operating officer of Pinterest is suing her ex-employer, claiming that the platform's women-friendly public face does not internally match and instead "reflects a pattern of discrimination and exclusion".
Pinterest hired Francoise Brougher as chief operating officer in March 2018, then fired her in April that year. In a lawsuit (PDF) on Tuesday in California, Brougher alleged that her dismissal had nothing to do with her performance and instead represented retaliation for the sexism complaint.
Brougher learned in 2019, while reviewing the filings Pinterest had to make as part of its IPO, that she had been deliberately misled about executive compensation. As a result, she was paid less well than other C-suite executives, the lawsuit alleges. After making board chairman Ben Silbermann aware of the discrepancy, she was ousted from board and board meetings, according to Brougher, preventing her from doing her job.
"I think I was fired for talking about the widespread discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest," Brougher wrote in a personal essay on the lawsuit. "It's time to eliminate the & # 39; boys & # 39; clubs that are far dominating." too many companies and make room for more female executives and their ideas. "
Beyond the C-Suite
Brougher isn't the first to claim Pinterest created a hostile work environment. Two black women who previously worked on Pinterest's policy team, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, publicly announced in June that they had left the company after experiencing and witnessing widespread discrimination in the office.
"My manager made derogatory comments in front of my team about my ethnicity and later a colleague's Jewish heritage in relation to those earlier comments. It was wild," Banks wrote in a tweet. She took the complaint to Human Resources, she added, "and at that point the retaliation began."
"I'm so proud of the initiatives I've led in my time (with Pinterest)," wrote Ozoma. "I just wish it wasn't affected by the racism, the gas lights and the disrespect of my manager, the skip level and the legal and human resources of the company."
Ozoma, Banks, and several other Pinterest employees spoke to the Washington Post about their experiences of corporate discrimination:
One black former employee said to stop speaking in meetings and watched her manager use the presentations she created to speak to clients instead. The woman, who was the only black person on her team, said one executive joked that she should act as a "servant" and "serve" her staff at a team dinner. "Everyone knew it was wrong, but at that moment no one said anything," said the ex-worker, who said she was too afraid of retaliation to report the incident to human resources.
Gender discrimination is one of big tech's longest running problems, and lawsuits are not new.
Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao made international headlines in 2012 for her lawsuit against her former company, Kleiner Perkins, alleging systematic gender discrimination.
In 2017, a group of former Google employees who alleged widespread pay discrimination sued the company, reiterating allegations the Labor Department had made against the company. That same year, a group of employees sued Oracle – which was also facing federal litigation – with similar allegations. Tesla was also sued for gender discrimination earlier this year.
Businesses big and small have vowed to do better in recent years, but change is slow at best. The latest internal diversity report (PDF) from Google found that fewer than a third of the company's employees worldwide are women – and only 26.7 percent of the company's management positions are held by women. At Facebook, a total of 37 percent of the company's workforce are women, which corresponds to a leadership role of 34 percent. At Amazon, 42.7 percent of employees are women – but only 27.5 percent of managers and company directors.
On the same day, Brougher sued Pinterest, a former SoulCycle employee, filed suit against the motion technology company, alleging the company discriminated against them and other employees when they became pregnant or took maternity leave.