Enlarge /. The lawsuit alleges that Pinterest actually has a darker side.
A group of shareholders is suing Pinterest and its board of directors for violating its fiduciary duty, wasting corporate assets and abusing its control by promoting a systematic culture of racial and gender discrimination that drove out female executives.
The top executives at Pinterest and the board of directors "were personally committed to the discrimination and retaliation of those who spoke out against and challenged the company's white male leadership clique," according to the lawsuit (PDF). Since Pinterest's user base is highly distorted by women, it harms the brand, and therefore shareholders, to be publicly viewed as a den of sexism and racism.
"The management and board of directors of Pinterest take their fiduciary duties seriously and continue to work to ensure that Pinterest is a place where all employees feel included and supported," said a company spokesman in a written statement. "We believe that the actions we take and the ongoing independent review of our culture, policies and practices will help us achieve our goal of creating a diverse, fair and inclusive environment for all."
Happy exterior, lazy interior?
The shareholder lawsuit cites several previous public discrimination claims within Pinterest as well as new testimony from half a dozen other witnesses.
The first public allegations of discrimination within Pinterest came from Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks earlier this year. Ozoma and Banks, both black women, worked on Pinterest's public policy team until they left in late May, claiming they experienced both widespread racial discrimination within the company and retaliation for reporting.
Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post interviewed Ozoma, Banks, and five other former Pinterest employees. All told the newspaper that Pinterest had a low accountability environment where "women were evicted without warning" and top executives were allowed to continue their roles without consequences, even after multiple complaints were filed against them. Around the same time, more than a dozen former Pinterest employees spoke to The Verge, Business Insider, and the New York Times, and similarly described experiences of exclusion and discrimination.
In August, the company's former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, filed a lawsuit against Pinterest seeking retaliation for complaints about gender pay discrimination. "I think I was fired for talking about the widespread discrimination, hostile work environment and misogyny that permeates Pinterest," Brougher said at the time. "It's time to eliminate the 'boys' clubs' that dominate far too many companies and make room for more women leaders and their ideas."
Additional witnesses cited in the lawsuit not only supported the public claims of Ozoma, Banks and Brougher, but also added their own experiences. Several claim that black employees were repeatedly promised promotions, roles, and project positions that never materialized, or denied promotions and title changes that would accurately describe the work already done. A former employee of the company's Human Resources department observed race-related wage differences in recruitment offers, as well as significantly higher sales across the board among Black and Latino employees.
In addition to the bad behavior, the lawsuit alleges, Pinterest had its own internal legal team conduct the investigation from its own internal legal team, rather than getting outside help. Unsurprisingly, investigators then "purposely looked the other way" rather than solving the underlying issues, the lawsuit alleges.
"Illegal and hypocritical"
The type of work environment claimed in the lawsuit would be toxic to any employer, but as the lawsuit notes, discrimination against women and skin color employees is particularly annoying on Pinterest.
The face that Pinterest presents to users is the image of inclusivity. For example, in October the company explained how it adds cultural sensitivity to finding Halloween costume inspiration, and made an effort to improve search gain for "underrepresented creators and corporations."
The company has apparently been trying to reverse the trend since Brougher filed its lawsuit and has been targeting racially diverse female executives for top positions. Pinterest has appointed Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith to its board since August. Ty McCray has also been hired as the company's new director of diversity and inclusion and Aya Kanai as its content director.
But that's not enough, the suit claims. Plaintiffs are seeking a court order "directing the company to take the necessary measures to end the systemic pattern of racial and gender discrimination" and financial damage.
The lawsuit is similar to the lawsuits filed by Alphabet (Google) shareholder groups in 2019 alleging the company failed to meet its stockholder fiduciary duty when it allowed rampant sexual misconduct to persist within the company and when it told executive director Andy Rubin paid millions to go after credible allegations made against him by an employee. The company and shareholders agreed a settlement in September that included approximately $ 300 million in future company diversity training and initiatives.