Pinterest is far from the first tech company to face allegations of gender discrimination, but it is the first to publicly announce that it will be paying more than $20 million to settle those allegations in a recent lawsuit involving a single plaintiff.
Françoise Brougher, the company’s former chief operations officer, sued the company in San Francisco Superior Court back in August, claiming she was paid less than her male peers, received feedback that was gender-biased, and was left out of meetings – all this despite the fact that she played a key role in driving revenue for the company.
Pinterest has reached a settlement agreement with Brougher and her attorneys in which Pinterest will pay them $20 million, and Pinterest and Brougher together will donate a total of $2.5 million to organizations that work to advance women and other minorities in tech. According to reports, the money is to be paid before the end of 2020.
The settlement did not include Pinterest admitting to having done anything wrong, and in fact, the company continues to insist it values diversity, equity, and inclusion in its workplace. Brougher even released a joint statement with Pinterest to that effect, claiming she’s encouraged by the company’s commitment to building a workplace culture that includes and supports all its employees.
Not only is Brougher not the first woman to accuse a major tech company of gender discrimination, but she is also not even the first woman to complain of gender discrimination at Pinterest. Over the summer, two black women who used to work as public policy officials for the company, Ifeoma Ozoma, and Aerica Shimizu Banks, alleged they were underpaid, had racist comments directed at them, and faced retaliation for trying to call out the treatment they received as unfair and biased.
According to Ozoma and Banks, as well as five other women who used to work at Pinterest and talked to the Washington Post about their experiences there, the tech company fosters an environment of gender discrimination in which women were regularly ousted without warning, while the members of Ben Silbermann’s inner circle continued to get away with discriminatory behavior, despite repeated complaints made against them.
Ozoma and Banks alleged they did the same work as their manager but were still placed on lower levels of the company’s internal hierarchy. That lower placement meant they didn’t have the opportunity to receive stock options as part of their compensation, which they believe are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Largely as a result of the allegations made by Ozoma and Banks, a group of Pinterest shareholders filed a lawsuit in November against Silbermann, one of the company’s chief executives, as well as other top executives, alleging they enabled race and gender discrimination in the workplace. The lawsuit, which was filed by the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island, further alleges Pinterest’s legal department was complicit in creating a workplace that was toxic to women and racial minorities.
Whether a record-breaking discrimination lawsuit will act as a warning to other tech companies remains to be seen.
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