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Pinterest's Former COO Was Fired for Calling Out Sexism, Lawsuit Alleges

Illustration for article titled Pinterests Former COO Was Fired for Calling Out Sexism, Lawsuit Alleges
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

Pinterest might be known as a platform that caters to our nation’s moms and brides and makeup artists, but behind the scenes, the company may not be the female-friendly environment you’d imagine.

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That’s according to a new lawsuit filed against Pinterest yesterday by the company’s former COO, Francoise Brougher, who abruptly stepped down from the multibillion-dollar platform in April with little explanation following a two-year stint at Pinterest’s helm. Now, she’s alleging that she was hit by dismissal after she complained about gender discrimination and salary inequities among the company’s top brass.

“Although 70 percent of Pinterest’s users are women, the company is steered by men with little input from female executives,” Brougher wrote in a Medium post that went live the same day as the suit. “Pinterest’s female executives, even at the highest levels, are marginalized, excluded, and silenced. I know because until my firing in April, I was Pinterest’s chief operating officer.”

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The lawsuit, which the Verge team helpfully uploaded here, is nothing short of damning. In it, Brougher claims that while helping the company fire up its 2019 IPO, she learned that she wasn’t being paid nearly as much as some of the men on staff that were technically below her—and on top of that, her company equity vested at a much slower rate than some of her male peers were getting at the time. When she began raising questions about these inequities—and other strategic decisions made within the company—she was criticized for not being “collaborative.” When she later complained to Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann about the company’s sexist work environment, she got fired over a video call.

Brougher’s blog post goes deeper into the alleged infractions:

Ben appeared to listen to only a few people and sealed himself off from opposing viewpoints. Ben’s “in group,” the men invited to the “meeting after the meeting,” held all the power and influence. This structure was detrimental to Pinterest’s culture, velocity, and results. The senior management team was riven by backstabbing and gossip as executives competed for Ben’s attention. A colleague once remarked, “the only way we get things done here is hiding things.”

Brougher goes on to say that over the course of her tenure, she was told she was “too loud,” “too candid,” and, strangely enough, “too transparent” about the issues that the company was facing around its public offering. An example she gave was that Pinterest’s revenue projections after the IPO were falling short of what her team projected—and it turns out it boiled down to a slight tweak to the ad-targeting model that her team wasn’t told about. “I had been pushing the product and engineering teams for better communication,” she wrote, “but discussions around the issue had taken place in ad hoc meetings I had been excluded from.”

When she asked for more transparency—and pointed that out that the company’s ad targeting systems weren’t up to snuff with the ones Pinterest’s competitors were using—Silbermann shut her out of not only those ad-hoc meetings, but “all of the product team meetings” as well.

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“I naively thought that I had broken the glass ceiling,” she wrote. “But even as the COO of a major Silicon Valley company, I was expected to act a certain way and be deferential to men because I am a woman.”

We’ve reached out to Pinterest for comment about the lawsuit over the boardroom’s alleged “insidiously” sexist behavior. A company spokesperson told the New York Times that “our employees are incredibly important to us,” and that it was “conducting an independent review regarding its culture, policies and practices.” Hopefully the higher-ups take that review to heart.

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I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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DISCUSSION

AdmiralAkbar
AdmiralAkbar

I installed a Chrome extension just to eliminate all Pinterest sites from my Google search results. I just think Pinterest is trash in general, but now I feel extra vindicated.