Pinterest has reached a major settlement with a former executive who filed a lawsuit alleging rampant gender discrimination after she was pushed out of her role at the firm, the company disclosed Monday afternoon.
Françoise Brougher served as Pinterest’s chief operating officer from March 2018 until the company fired her in April of this year. In August, she filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging her dismissal had nothing to do with her performance and instead was an act of retaliation against her for complaining about discrimination she encountered inside the company.
While preparing Pinterest for its 2019 IPO, Brougher discovered that she had been deliberately misled about executive compensation at the firm and was being significantly underpaid compared to her male C-suite colleagues, her suit alleged. After she brought the discrepancy to the attention of Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, she was systematically squeezed out of executive and board meetings and communications and as a result of that retaliation became unable to perform her job, she said.
Pinterest did not admit any liability in the settlement, according to The New York Times, which was first to report the deal. Brougher and her attorney will receive a total of $20 million, and Pinterest will donate $2.5 million toward organizations that advance the causes of “women and underrepresented communities in the technology industry.”
“Pinterest recognizes the importance of fostering a workplace environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive and will continue its actions to improve its culture,” Brougher and Pinterest said in a joint media statement. “Françoise welcomes the meaningful steps Pinterest has taken to improve its workplace environment and is encouraged that Pinterest is committed to building a culture that allows all employees to feel included and supported.”
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher told the NYT in an interview. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”
A long way to go?
Brougher is not the only former Pinterest employee to bring up problems at the company. Several other women who have worked for Pinterest in recent years, especially Black women, have also alleged that the company has serious discrimination problems.
Former Pinterest policy directors Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, both of whom are Black women, made public their experiences of discrimination inside Pinterest in June of this year. In the wake of Banks’ and Ozoma’s allegations, several media organizations, including The Washington Post, The Verge, Business Insider, and The New York Times, collectively spoke with well over a dozen current and former Pinterest employees who related similar experiences.
A group of Pinterest investors filed a shareholder suit at the end of November alleging that the company’s top executives and the 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,” which harms the company’s public image and therefore its stock value.
Pinterest at the time said that company leadership and the board “are committed to continuing our efforts to help ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported,” adding, “We believe the actions we’ve initiated as well as the ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies, and practices will help us achieve our goal of building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for everyone.”