Pinterest goes public with its gender discrimination settlement


The amount former COO Francoise Brougher will be paid by Pinterest.

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Pinterest has officially settled a gender discrimination suit with its former chief operating officer, Francoise Brougher, according to the New York Times. The settlement will give Brougher $22.5 million after she sued the company in August for alleged mistreatment on the basis of sex. Although Pinterest has not admitted to liability, Brougher had claimed that she was left out of key meetings despite being one of the highest ranking employees, given "gendered" input, and said that there was little salary transparency compared to her male coworkers. After bringing awareness about the issues, she said she was fired.

Of the $22.5 million, Brougher and Pinterest have told the New York Times that they will donate a joint $2.5 million toward organizations that help marginalized groups, including women and minorities, in advancing in education with an emphasis on tech. The funds will be official by the end of 2020, according to the report.

Background — Days after she sued Pinterest in August, Brougher wrote a public post on Medium about her former workplace, titled The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity. In the more recent months, Pinterest has attempted to place an emphasis on giving its employees paid time off to perform their civic duties during the election season. It has also garnered a positive reputation for tackling misinformation in the realm of politics and public health.

But when it came to internal workplace culture, Brougher wrote that Pinterest — like other tech companies — had demonstrated a "a pattern of discrimination and exclusion that many female executives experience," including herself. Upon the settlement, Pinterest has told the New York Times, "Pinterest has acted swiftly to make changes needed to ensure that all employees feel supported and included."

What makes this settlement unique — When it comes to handling lawsuits, the tech sector in the United States conventionally opts for one of the following approaches: wrap it up in private, possibly with an undisclosed amount given to the accusing parties, or simply dispute the claims made by the accusing party in order to maintain its standing in the public and shareholders' eyes.

In Pinterest's case, a deviation from the norm, the company is settling the matter in public and says it wants to do better in the eyes of everyone. Maybe it will push other startups to do the same: be open, be clear. For Brougher, it's a step in the right direction. "My goal was about accountability and driving change," Brougher told the New York Times. "Sharing the settlement publicly helps raise awareness more broadly."