One of Pinterest’s top executives files a lawsuit alleging she experienced a hostile work environment.
Françoise Brougher, Chief Operating Officer of the popular app Pinterest, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was paid less than her male colleagues, left out of important business meetings because of her gender and terminated for “‘speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny in the business.” She left the company abruptly back in April.
Brougher’s lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, claims she was fired for vocalizing her mistreatment and she was given sexist, gender-specific feedback from colleagues and supervisors. She also states 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 said.
Brougher managed Pinterest’s revenue with 1,000 direct reports. She says she found out her paycheck wasn’t as hefty as the men in her organization when the company filed to go public in 2019, and it was only adjusted after she complained. This was despite the long history she had with the company as well as previous leadership positions at Google and Square.
“Even at the very top ranks of a public company, female executives can be targeted for sex discrimination and retaliation,” the lawsuit states. “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.”
In the suit, Brougher contends Pinterest has “a culture of constant exclusion” and that she was not invited to meetings after the company went public. At the same time, other team members were able to be present, sometimes invited to attend without her knowledge.
“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 lawsuit also alleges Pinterest’s CFO Todd Morgenfeld asked Brougher in front of colleagues, “What is your job anyway?” and made other demeaning and discriminative comments. At one point, he said 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.”
Soon after a confrontation between Brougher and Morgenfeld, Silbermann terminated her during a video call. When asked to do so, Brougher refused to claim publicly it was her decision to leave or sign a nondisclosure presented to her.
“I was not going to lie to my team and did not sign the NDA presented to me,” Brougher said.
She published a blog post after filing, stating, “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.” Brougher added, “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.”