SAN FRANCISCO – Pinterest on Monday agreed to spend $ 22.5 million on a sex discrimination lawsuit and retaliation from Françoise Brougher, their former chief operating officer, in one of the largest publicly announced individual discrimination settlements Gender pay.
As part of the deal, Pinterest and Ms. Brougher said they would collectively donate $ 2.5 million to charities that support women and underrepresented minorities in the technology space with a focus on education, funding and advocacy. The donations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Ms. Brougher said in an interview. “I hope it is a first step towards creating a better working environment there.”
The deal could signal a shift in how such suits are handled in Silicon Valley. In the past, technology companies have generally struggled, for example when venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers denied a lawsuit by one of its former investors, Ellen Pao, in 2012. (Ms. Pao lost the case.) Tech companies have also privately settled such lawsuits.
Ms. Brougher is among the most prominent female tech managers filing a sex discrimination lawsuit against a former employer. In July, Emily Kramer, a former vice president of marketing at Carta, sued the financial technology startup for discrimination and retaliation. Carta has denied the claims.
David Lowe, Ms. Brougher’s attorney, said the deal with Pinterest was notable for its size, nonprofit component, and publicity. Court rulings and private settlements for discrimination cases could be larger than Ms Brougher’s, he said, but court rulings can be challenged and settled for lesser amounts, while private settlements don’t hold companies accountable in the same way. The settlement provides partial compensation for Ms. Brougher’s lost income, he said.
“My goal was to be accountable and drive change,” said Ms. Brougher. “The public sharing of the settlement helps to raise awareness more broadly.”
Pinterest, a virtual bulletin board company, has spent months looking at how it treats its employees. In June, two recently terminated employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, publicly discussed their experiences of racist and sexist comments, wage inequality and retaliation within the company. More cultural-related reports on Pinterest added fuel to their accounts.
In August, Ms. Brougher sued Pinterest in the San Francisco Supreme Court for sexist treatment. She joined the company in 2018 as Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for the company’s sales. Around half of the 2,000 employees reported to her.
But despite being a senior executive, Ms. Brougher said she was banned from important meetings, received gender feedback, and was paid less than her male counterparts. She said she was released in April after talking about treatment.
In addition to her lawsuit, she posted a blog post titled “The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity,” in which she shared her experiences. She said the post sparked a lot of support and similar stories from other female tech managers.
This week, more than 200 Pinterest employees practically went out in support of Ms. Brougher, Ms. Ozoma and Ms. Shimizu Banks and in protest of the culture and politics of Pinterest. Soon after, Pinterest was hit by shareholder lawsuits too.
In response, Pinterest launched an investigation into its culture, the results of which were not made public. The board of directors has been expanded to include two new members, Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith, two prominent media managers who are black and female. Pinterest CFO Todd Morgenfeld, who was called in Ms. Brougher’s lawsuit of discriminatory behavior, remains with the company.
Ms. Brougher said she was encouraged by Pinterest’s recent moves to delve into its culture, including the addition of the two new board members. She said she hoped Pinterest did more than just put her on the board and “listened to her ideas too”.
She added that discrimination against women leaders could only be resolved if women in leadership positions were “the norm rather than the exception”. That year, the number of Fortune 500 companies with female executives hit a record high of 37, or 7 percent.
“I want more women to speak,” Ms. Brougher said, “but more importantly, I want more women to be in the C-suite.”