On Monday, Pinterest, the company that is valued at over $2 billion, settled a gender discrimination lawsuit for over $22 million, in what is being referred to as the largest publicly announced settlement for gender discrimination.
Background of the lawsuit
The suit was brought by the company’s former chief operating officer Françoise Brougher in August, who filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, California against Pinterest and maintained that she was fired by the company in April for speaking out about rampant discrimination, hostile work environment and misogyny at the workplace.
Before joining Pinterest, Brougher served as an executive at Charles Schwab, Google and Square.
Brougher said on Twitter after the settlement was announced on Monday, “Today, Pinterest and I announced that we have reached a settlement. This includes a $2.5M to charitable organizations that promote women and underrepresented communities. I will continue to advocate for workplace equity, including more women in the C-Suite.”
Brougher’s lawyer David Lowe told The New York Times that the settlement was notable because of its size, its charitable component and the public announcement.
As per a research conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2017, women in the US are substantially more likely than men to say that gender discrimination in the tech industry is a problem. According to this survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans said that discrimination against women is a problem in the tech industry and 44 per cent of women said that it was a major problem, compared to 29 per cent of men.
So, what was the gender discrimination lawsuit about?
Brougher, who joined the company in March 2018 and helped take the company public, was fired in April this year, following which she sued the company in August in the San Francisco Superior Court. In a blog post, Brougher wrote on Medium in the same month, she said that Pinterest’s workplace is “far from perfect” and listed out several instances where she alleged that she was excluded from important decisions that the company was making at the time. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
In particular, she called out her “closest peer”, Pinterest’s Chief Financial Officer Todd Morgenfield who still holds his position at the company.
In the lawsuit, Brougher alleged that while Pinterest markets itself to women “looking for inspiration”, the company “brazenly” fired its top female executive for pointing out instances of gender bias within the company’s male-dominated leadership. In her complaint, she also mentions that while the male executives were rewarded for their strong leadership styles, Brougher was criticised for not being compliant or collaborative enough.
She has also alleged that she was offered less favourable compensation than her peers, which she had to fight for. In her blog, she mentioned, “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.”
The lawsuit also says that after she was fired in April, Ben Silbermann, Pinterest’s co-founder and CEO asked her to cover up the termination by telling her team that she left the company by her choice, which she refused to do.
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