Pinterest’s former chief operating officer Françoise Brougher has accused the company of firing her for ‘speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny’ in the business.
Brougher, who was the top female executive at the firm, left Pinterest suddenly in April this year with little explanation provided.
But in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Brougher accused the $21billion virtual pinboard business of sacking her after she complained about sexist treatment.
Brougher claims in a suit filed in San Francisco Superior Court that she was excluded from important meetings, paid less than male coworkers, and was given gender-specific feedback.
Pinterest is is understood to be defending the claim.
Brougher has accused the $21billion virtual pinboard business of sacking her after she complained about sexist treatment
She alleges that ultimately she was fired from the position she had held since 2018 by CEO Ben Silbermann after raising concerns over her treatment.
‘When men speak out, they get rewarded. When women speak out, they get fired,’ she told the New York Times.
Brougher was responsible for the company’s revenue as COO and had around 1,000 employees reporting to her.
She only discovered she was paid less than male colleagues when Pinterest, which has a particularly large female audience, filed to go public last year.
‘Even at the very top ranks of a public company, female executives can be targeted for sex discrimination and retaliation,’ the lawsuit stated.
‘Although Pinterest markets itself to women looking for inspiration, the company brazenly fired its top female executive for pointing out gender bias within Pinterest’s male dominated leadership team.’
Brougher referenced a culture of ‘constant exclusion’ and claims she was not invited to board meetings after Pinterest went public.
Members of her team, however, were occasionally invited to those meetings without her knowledge, the suit adds.
Neither was she invited on the ‘road show’ to meet with investors for the company’s public offering, the suit claims.
Brougher says she was excluded from meetings by Pinterest’s CEO Silbermann (left) which made it ‘impossible’ to do her job. Pictured right is Todd Morgenfeld, Chief Financial Officer, at Pinterest headquarters in San Francisco.
‘When you are brought in as a No. 2, you are expected to advise the CEO,’ she said. ‘But when you are not in the meeting where the decisions are made and don’t have the context, it makes your job harder.’
The suit also alleges that Pinterest’s chief financial officer Todd Morgenfeld asked her in front of colleagues, ‘What is your job anyway?’, as well as giving her feedback she believed to be sexist.
Brougher claims that Morgenfeld raised his voice and terminated the call when she questioned him about this over a video chat.
CEO Silbermann was dismissive of her concerns around Morgenfield, the suit alleges.
Court records claim that Silbermann compared the situation to a domestic dispute. HR treated it as a legal matter, the suit added.
Soon after the conversation with Morgenfeld, Silbermann fired Brougher during a video call.
She claims Pinterest asked her to announce that it was her decision to leave and sign a non disclosure agreement, which she refused to do.
Brougher’s lawsuit also alleges that her equity grants were ‘backloaded’, meaning most vested after several years, but that her male peers’ were not.
The suit says her compensation was adjusted after she complained.
Brougher added that after she was fired, not one board member called ‘to hear my side of the story or discuss what had happened’
Brougher, who previously held executive positions at both Square and Google, published a 4,000 word blog post after the suit was filed.
She wrote: ‘I believe that I was fired for speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest.’
‘It is time to eliminate the “boys’ clubs” that dominate far too many companies and make room for more women leaders and their ideas,’ she added.
Although she did not reference the lawsuit in her post, Brougher detailed various ways she was allegedly mistreated at Pinterest.
She specifically says she was excluded from meetings by Silbermann, which made it ‘impossible’ to do her job.
‘I had to waste time and energy just determining what was happening at a company where I was supposed to be a leader,’ she wrote.
Although she did not reference the lawsuit in her post, Brougher detailed various ways she was allegedly mistreated at Pinterest
She also said that Morgenfeld wrote in in her performance review that her biggest accomplishment at the company was championing diversity issues.
‘Reducing a female executive’s achievements to ‘diversity’ is a common form of gender discrimination,’ she wrote. ‘Being a woman at Pinterest was not my only accomplishment.’
After being asked to say she had Pinterest on her own terms, ‘I was not going to lie to my team and did not sign the NDA presented to me,’ Brougher wrote.
‘I realized it was more important to finally be an advocate for women at Pinterest, and for anyone else experiencing the pernicious effects of sexism, bias, and retaliation.’
She added that after she was fired, not one board member called ‘to hear my side of the story or discuss what had happened’.
Brougher alleges in her blog that other women at Pinterest were also discriminated against.
Brougher alleges in her blog that other women at Pinterest were also discriminated against
She wrote: ‘Certain teams could not retain women because the workplace was so toxic. Some women were offered spot bonuses not just to stay at the company, but to stick it out in certain departments that were particularly fraught.
‘Women were pushed out for being too candid, others for being too caring. Many women felt they had been under-leveled when they were hired and could not get promoted.’
Brougher went on to write a list of eight steps she recommended both Pinterest and other organisations take to improve workplace culture.
The second recommendation was to ‘recognize and dismantle the system of gender bias’.
Brougher wrote: ‘We have to stop punishing women for the type of strong leadership that is rewarded in men, and root out the microaggressions that impede female leaders’ ability to be successful.’
Pinterest has been contacted for comment.