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Pinterest’s former COO files gender discrimination lawsuit

  • 19 August, 2020

Pinterest, known for its social media and image sharing site, is currently under scrutiny over allegations that their workplace perpetuates gender and race discrimination.

Just last week it came to light that Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the tech company in San Francisco’s Superior Court. Soon after the lawsuit was reported Brougher published a 4,000 word blog claiming that her recent firing was in retaliation after she spoke out about the misogynistic and hostile work  environment she witnessed and experienced at Pinterest.

While it is common for tech companies to run into legal problems due to their lack of diversity, these legal problems usually originate from lower level employees. Therefore, what makes this particular lawsuit and subsequent tell all blog post so significant is that is coming from a top leader, as COO Brougher was essentially number two in the company.

In the blogpost, Brougher describes being excluded, silenced, and retaliated upon. Brougher claims that more often than not she was excluded from important meetings despite being COO. Moreover, Brougher soon found out that she was being paid less that her male co-workers. Brougher realized that her equity vested on a different schedule that other male executives. This meant that just in 2019 Brougher vested just 37% of what the CFO, Todd Morgenfeld, vested in his first year at Pinterest. Brougher was shocked as she was misled to believe that her pay was common. Therefore, she immediately argued to have her compensations adjusted to that of her male peers. Brougher succeeded in having her compensation adjusted, but she claims that unequal pay was not the only way Pinterest perpetrated misogynistic practices.

Brougher alleges that CFO Todd Morgenfeld, has made sexist comments at her expense. Specifically, on one occasion Morgenfeld asked Ms Brougher “What is your job anyway?” in front of their peers. In a performance review, Morgenfeld also wrote that Brougher’s only accomplishment was being a champion for diversity. In her blog post Brougher states that “reducing a female executive’s achievements to “diversity” is a common form of gender discrimination” and that “being a woman at Pinterest was not my only accomplishment.’ After reading that this was the only positive accolade Morgenfeld gave her despite doing much more in the company Brougher decided to confront Monrgenfeld in a video call, but when that resulted in Morgenfeld raising his voice and hanging up on her, Brougher then went to human resources.

Human resources took Brougher’s complaints and even opened an investigation on Morgenfeld. However, the investigation concluded with Human Resources finding that Morgenfeld did nothing wrong. A week after the investigation ended, Brougher was fired.

In Brougher’s own words she states that “According to Pinterest, I was fired not for the results I achieved, but for not being ‘collaborative,’ I believe that I was fired for speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest.”

The most recent development at Pinterest saw 236  employees staging a virtual walkout by logging off and signing a petition which calls on chief executive and co-founder, Ben Silberman, to change company policies. These actions not only come after the firing of Francoise Brougher, but also after two former Black employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, posted on twitter about their own experience facing racial and gender discrimination at Pinterest.

The petition itself demands for greater transparency in regards to promotion levels, retention and pay. Moreover, it demands that Pinterest have management made up of 25% women and 8% underrepresented minorities.

Pinterest released an official comment towards the complaints, walkout and petition stating, “We remain committed to advancing our culture to ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported, which is why there is an ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies, and practices. We’re reviewing the complaint filed. Our employees are incredibly important to us and we take all concerns brought to our attention seriously.”

Source: CNBC, NYT

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