One of Pinterest’s former highest-ranking executives has sued the company, claiming she was discriminated against for being a woman – and then faced retaliation and wrongful termination when she spoke up about it, court papers show.
Francoise Brougher took a job as Pinterest’s Chief Operating Officer in March 2018 after serving in leadership roles with Charles Schwab, Google, and Square. In her then-new role, she was the company’s highest-ranking female employee, and “believed that she had shattered the glass ceiling in the tech world,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.
But over time she repeatedly encountered what the lawsuit described as “archetypal” examples of gender discrimination by her male peers, including one instance when a boss told her she should “’be mindful’ of how she acted in a group setting” and “discouraged her from communicating directly,” the suit further alleges.
“While 70% of Pinterest users are women, the company is run by three men, and gender bias is prevalent in the C-Suite,” states a press release announcing the lawsuit. “Even as the highest-ranking woman in the company and head of operations, Ms. Brougher was expected to be compliant and conform to gender stereotypes. When she refused to take a back seat to her male peers, she was marginalized and excluded from important meetings and decisions. And when she objected to the CFO treating her in a demeaning and sexist way, she was fired.”
A Pinterest spokesperson told Fox News the company is reviewing the complaint.
“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,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Our employees are incredibly important to us and we take all concerns brought to our attention seriously.”
Brougher, a California resident, was fired through a video call in April 2020, after she complained that the company’s chief financial officer had “made demeaning sexist comments to her,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Instead of taking her complaint seriously, investigating it properly, and doing the hard work to address her concerns about gender discrimination and hostility, Pinterest fired Ms. Brougher to protect the comfort of her male peers,” the 18-page suit further states. “In an attempt to cover up Ms. Brougher’s complaints, Pinterest tried to create a fiction that her firing was a voluntary departure. Ms. Brougher’s termination solidified Pinterest’s unwelcoming environment for women and minorities by imposing a high cost to challenging the men at the top.”
The lawsuit also claims Brougher was paid less than her male peers, who were “given more favorable vesting schedules,” despite being told otherwise.
“She wrongly assumed that all the executives were treated equally,” the suit states.
She made the grim discovery upon seeing the company’s S-1 securities filing, which outlined the salaries of Pinterest’s highest-paid employees, court papers show.
“Even though Ms. Brougher was the COO and managed a large, complex organization, she was not on the list,” the complaint continues. “Ms. Brougher learned that she was still below the glass ceiling, looking up. It was hard to swallow.”
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