Pinterest settles gender discrimination lawsuit for $22M
"What happened to me at Pinterest reflects a pattern of discrimination and exclusion that many female executives experience."
On Monday, Pinterest agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit from its former chief operating officer Françoise Brougher, The New York Times reports (NYT). According to the publication, it represents the largest publicly-announced individual settlement for gender discrimination.
Part of the settlement entails an agreement that Ms. Brougher and Pinterest will jointly donate $2.5 million to charities that support underrepresented and historically-excluded groups in tech.
In an interview with the Times, Ms. Brougher said her goal was about “accountability and driving change.”
“Sharing the settlement publicly helps raise awareness more broadly,” she added.
Ms. Brougher isn’t the first Pinterest employee to sound the alarm about the company’s practices.
A September report by The Verge paints a scathing picture of the organization’s inner workings, complete with toxic management and a seemingly unsupportive HR department.
Ms. Brougher sued Pinterest for gender discrimination in San Francisco Superior Court in August.
She was hired in 2018 as Pinterest’s chief operating officer, responsible for the organization’s revenue and overseeing roughly half of the company’s 2,000 employees.
Despite her high rank, Ms. Brougher says she was excluded from critical meetings and punished for speaking up.
“Ben appeared to listen to only a few people and sealed himself off from opposing viewpoints,” Ms. Brougher writes.
“Ben’s ‘in-group,’ the men invited to the “meeting after the meeting,” held all the power and influence. This structure was detrimental to Pinterest’s culture, velocity, and results.”
She also found out that she was being paid less than her male colleagues. That was eventually rectified by HR, but only after she presented them with a spreadsheet “illustrating the inequity.”
“There is a reason that women do not negotiate as hard as men for higher pay. It is not because we are not good negotiators. As I would learn at Pinterest, it is because we get punished when we do,” she writes.
Days after the blog post was published, Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout in support of Brougher, Ozoma, and Shimizu Banks.
Next came the shareholder lawsuits, filed by the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island and alleging Silbermann, alongside Co-founder Evan Sharp, CFO Todd Morgenfeld, and the Pinterest board “personally engaged in, facilitated or knowingly ignored the discrimination and retaliation against those who spoke up and challenged the Company’s White, male leadership clique.”
In response, Pinterest launched an investigation into its culture but has not made the results public. It also appointed Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith to its board of directors, both of whom are Black, female media execs.
Speaking to NYT, Ms. Brougher says she is “encouraged” by Pinterest’s moves to improve company culture — but adds the company will need to more than appoint new directors. The company will also need to listen to them, she says.
“What happened to me at Pinterest reflects a pattern of discrimination and exclusion that many female executives experience, not only in the tech industry but throughout corporate America,” she wrote in her blog post.
“…Pinterest’s flaws exist in many organizations. I hope that by sharing my story, I can contribute to dismantling the system of gender bias that persists despite the progress made exposing misconduct within companies like Pinterest. It is time to eliminate the “boys clubs” that dominate far too many companies and make room for more women leaders and their ideas.”
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