Pinterest will pay $22.5 million to settle a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, the New York Times reports. The agreement allowed the company to avoid admitting liability, but holds it to substantial contributions “toward charities that support women and underrepresented minorities in tech,” per the Times.
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Françoise Brougher, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, told the paper. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”
In August, Brougher filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court accusing Pinterest, then valued at $21 billion, of retaliating against her for reporting what she said was sexist treatment. At the time, two Black employees — Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks — had just publicly enumerated their reasons for quitting the company, accusing Pinterest of abetting racial harassment, unequal pay, and retribution for HR reports. In her suit, Brougher similarly contended that speaking up about unfair, gendered treatment ultimately led to her termination. When she joined the company in 2018, she said she was paid her less than her male peers, left out of meetings and corporate events with investors, and belittled by men in C-suite positions. Brougher maintains that women throughout the company were routinely excluded by men and sidelined from promotions, and that her own firing in April 2020 amounted to reprisal for speaking up about mistreatment.
“The discrimination I experienced at Pinterest was different from the ‘bro culture’ so many other tech companies are notorious for. It was more subtle, but it was no less insidious and devastating,” Brougher wrote in a Medium post. “There is a reason that women do not negotiate as hard as men for higher pay. It is not because we are not good negotiators. As I would learn at Pinterest, it is because we get punished when we do.”
In response to the lawsuit, and to a virtual walkout roughly 200
employees staged in solidarity with Brougher, Ozoma, and Shimizu Banks, Pinterest launched an investigation into its own practices and culture. According to the Times, it also enlisted the NAACP to help form an advisory council, and has improved transparency around salary and diversity. But it has not fired chief financial officer Todd Morgenfeld, named in Brougher’s suit and allegedly an active participant in the discrimination she says she experienced. Still, a spokesperson told the Times: “Pinterest has acted swiftly to make changes needed to ensure that all employees feel supported and included.” And for her part, Brougher is happy to have the settlement reported, rather than paid out quietly in private.
“My goal was about accountability and driving change,” she said. “Sharing the settlement publicly helps raise awareness more broadly.”