Former COO of Pinterest, Françoise Brougher has come out on Tuesday suing Pinterest on grounds of gender discrimination and retaliation, accusing Pinterest of taking action against her for bringing up concerns about “rampant discrimination, hostile work environment and misogyny” inside the company.
“What happened to me at Pinterest reflects a pattern of discrimination and exclusion that many female executives experience, not only in the tech industry but throughout corporate America,” Brougher wrote.
“I am opening up about my experience because if someone of my privilege and seniority is fired for speaking out about these issues, the situation is likely far worse for people earlier in their careers.”
In a Medium post, Brougher alleged that she and other women were left out important decisions as CEO Ben Silbermann and other trusted male lieutenants “held all the power and influence.”
Brougher was paid less than her male peers, singled out of important meetings and given gendered feedback unrelated to her job scope.
She was later fired for speaking out on these concerns, the lawsuit says.
Brougher, having previously worked as the Global Business Lead at Square and VP on advertising at Google, according to Linkedin, decided that the next course of action would be a Medium post outlining her dissatisfaction and following that, a lawsuit against the company.
She first learned of the salary inequalities when Pinterest began the process of going public in 2019. Not only did She earn less than her peers, her equity was vested at a lower rate. Pinterest eventually fixed the issue but only after she “presented a spreadsheet illustrating the inequity and fought for my fair share,” she said.
After this episode, Brougher says she was deliberately excluded from board meetings. Strangely enough and to add more insult to injury, other members of her team were invited to attend without her.
“When you are brought in as a No. 2, you are expected to advise the CEO,” she told the New York Times in an interview.
“But when you are not in the meeting where the decisions are made and don’t have the context, it makes your job harder.”
Before she began being excluded and was still able to attend board meetings, she noticed discourse was lacking.
“Invariably, the board would be cordial, nodding their heads at my proposals and rarely asking difficult questions. This was not something I was used to,” she wrote.
When she asked Silbermann about why there was no pushback in the meetings, she says he responded “I chose them.”
Brougher did not hold back in her Medium post where she wrote that the management team was “riven by backstabbing and gossip”. She remembers one colleague saying “the only way we get things done here is hiding things.”
This is very much in opposition to Pinterest’s stated values which in 2019, included “care with candor.”
Brougher’s lawsuit also details discrimination she was subjected to at the hands of CFO Todd Morgenfeld. Morgenfeld asked Brougher “what is your job anyway” in front of colleagues in January 2020, thoughtlessly disrespecting and belittling her position within the company. He also yelled, interrupted and called Brougher a liar in one instance.
After the call, Brougher says Morgenfeld stopped speaking to her and refused to acknowledge her in meetings.
When Brougher brought this mistreatment to Silbermann, Silbermann suggested she handle the situation with curiosity and compared the situation to “an old couple fighting over who would make coffee.” An investigation into Morgenfeld’s behaviour found no wrongdoing. Brougher wrote an email to HR complaining of Morgenfeld’s poor behaviour and a week later, in April she was fired.
Brougher’s complaint comes on the heels of criticism of the company from two Black employees who voiced similar experiences with corporate mistreatment on Twitter. Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Bank who work on Pinterest’s public policy team and were involved in celebrated initiatives against health misinformation and racist content were apparently underpaid and subject to racist comments from their manager, according to the Washington Post.
“You come in and are happy. But the toxic culture eats away at your soul,” said one former Black salesman who was “pushed out” in late 2019
Gender based pay Inequality is an issue felt in Malaysia as well. Last year, The Star Online published an article showing that the gender wage gap exists in Malaysia and in staggering proportions.
Pooling together over eight million working adults in the country, statistics showed that the pay gap can be between 7.1 percent and 34.9 percent, depending on the industry. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s 2018 report, Malaysia ranks 84th among 149 countries for parity in economic participation and opportunity, which factors in the gender pay gap.
Although we are placed higher than places such as Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, we still have a lot of work to do in reaching parity in Malaysia.