Pinterest has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit that was brought against the company by its former chief operating officer, Françoise Brougher.
The social media company agreed to make a $2.5 million joint donation with Brougher that would go towards charities supporting women and minorities in the tech industry, according to the New York Times. Pinterest did not have to admit to any liability as part of the agreement.
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher said according to the Times. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”
In the lawsuit, Brougher alleged that despite being a high-performing COO who helped to take the company public, she was criticized for her leadership style while her male colleagues were praised. Brougher, who started working at Pinterest in March of 2018, also said that she was paid less than her male colleagues and left out of important meetings.
While working at Pinterest, Brougher said that she grew the company’s revenue from $500 million to $1.1 billion, expanded operations to 20 countries and brought in 70,000 new advertisers. Half of Pinterest’s 1,500 employees reported to her.
When Brougher went to the head of Human Resources and to Pinterest’s Chief Executive Officer Ben Silbermann to ask for help after the company’s Chief Financial Officer made comments to her that were “demeaning” and “sexist,” she claimed that she was fired to “protect the comfort of her male peers.”
“Pinterest has acted swiftly to make changes needed to ensure that all employees feel supported and included,” a Pinterest spokeswoman told the New York Times. The company has taken steps to remedy the situation such as making salaries more transparent and adding two more board members.
In a blog post published alongside the lawsuit titled “The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity,” Brougher said that female executives at the company are “marginalized, excluded, and silenced,” even though 70% of the platform’s users are women. The issue of gender discrimination is a pattern within the tech industry and corporate America in general, she wrote.
Two former Pinterest employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, accused the company of racial discrimination two months before Brougher filed her lawsuit, The Hill reported. After Brougher’s lawsuit was settled, Ozoma said on Twitter that Pinterest leadership treated her and Banks “like trash.”
“My goal was about accountability and driving change,” Brougher told the New York Times. “Sharing the settlement publicly helps raise awareness more broadly.”
The settlement’s charitably component, publicity, and large size made is notable, Brougher’s lawyer David Lowe said. Partial compensation for Brougher’s lost income was included in the agreement, Lowe added.