Last week, Pinterest agreed to settle a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by former Chief Operating Officer Françoise Brougher for $22.5 million, making it one of the largest publicly announced, individual gender discrimination settlements. Pinterest and Brougher have agreed to donate the $22.5 million to charities and organizations that promote and fund education and advocacy for women and minorities in the tech industry. Brougher’s lawyer, David Lowe, noted that this settlement stands out because of “its size, its charitable component and its public announcement,” as reported by a recent New York Times article.
Brougher began working for Pinterest in 2018 as its Chief Operating Officer. She claims that despite her high position in the company, she was excluded from meetings, paid less than her male counterparts, and received gender-related comments and feedback in the workplace. She alleges that she was let go from the company after speaking out about the discrimination she was experiencing. Following her termination, she published a blog post in which she detailed her experience with the company. In it, she asserts that “Pinterest’s female executives, even at the highest levels, are marginalized, excluded, and silenced.” The blog was met with resounding support from many women in the tech industry.
Two other former Pinterest employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, have also accused the company of gender and/or racial discrimination. Ozoma and Banks resigned from the company after being subject to pay inequality, racist and sexist comments, and retaliation. Like Brougher, they publicly spoke out against Pinterest after they quit. In August of this year, over 200 Pinterest employees staged a “virtual walkout” in solidarity with these former employees. They posted messages in an internal chat app expressing support for employees who have accused the company of gender and/or racial discrimination and then logged off, signaling a walkout.
Responses from Pinterest and Brougher
In response to the allegations against Pinterest, a spokeswoman for the company said, “Pinterest has acted swiftly to make changes needed to ensure that all employees feel supported and included.” Some of these changes include opening an investigation into company culture and making salary information more transparent. The company also recently added two black females, Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith, to its board of directors and hired a new head of inclusion and diversity. Lastly, Pinterest partnered with the NAACP to form an advisory council.
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher said in response to these changes, hoping they are the first steps in improving the company’s work environment. Although she is pleased with the results of the settlement, Brougher knows there is a long way to go in achieving gender equality in the workplace. She stated that gender discrimination against working females will come to an end only when females in executive roles “are more the norm than the exception.” Brougher said, “I want more women to speak up, but more importantly, I want more women in the C-suite.”
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