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Pinterest and Former Executive Agree to Massive Settlement in Gender Discrimination Case

  • Social media platform settles a gender discrimination case involving its former Chief Operating Officer for $20 million.
  • The former COO claimed Pinterest ignored her points of view and relied on males to make crucial decisions.
  • Following the settlement, Pinterest has made cultural and hiring changes, but the changes are primarily aimed at equality in pay and improving diversity, not at inclusion in thought among leaders.

In recent years we have seen organizations seek greater diversity in executive leadership. Indeed, a 2019 study shows that the number of female executives has grown to 29% worldwide, the highest in history. While organizations of all sizes seem to be gaining knowledge that diverse leadership is necessary, the inclusion of thought and ideas from leaders of diverse backgrounds still has not caught up. This disparity is often characterized by discrimination plaintiffs being high up on the organizational chart but without any real power to change. Recent verdicts and settlements have shown the law’s unwillingness to accept pure “diversity” as acceptable, as evidenced by a recent case involving social media platform Pinterest and its former Chief Operating Officer Francoise Brougher.

As reported by Bloomberg and other news organizations, Pinterest and Brougher settled Brougher’s gender discrimination lawsuit against the company for a whopping $20 million. In her suit, Brougher claimed that while she was placed in the company’s number 2 role as Chief Operating Officer, she was never supported nor included in high-level decision-making compared to her male colleagues. Brougher claimed the company’s male CEO relied exclusively on a group of men to make decisions and did not listen to Brougher’s suggestions or points of view. Specifically, Brougher stated, “while I was given a seat at the table, I had no power, or I was not empowered to use my talent to move Pinterest forward.”

According to the Bloomberg article, Brougher was encouraged to come forward with her complaint after two African-American women complained of being underpaid by Pinterest and reported equality concerns to the company’s human resources department. When Brougher learned the company found no wrongdoing, she grew frustrated with the organizational culture and filed her gender discrimination complaint. Notably, the experiences and criticisms of others led Brougher to understand how she was being treated was also unfair and that the culture at Pinterest was no longer a tolerable working environment.

In the wake of the settlement, Pinterest has taken steps to improve its company culture to become more inclusive. Bloomberg found that since the payment, the company has added more diverse directors to its board and has “taken steps to improve its process for hiring and compensating employees.” As part of the settlement, Pinterest agreed to spend $2.5 million to improve representation in the technology industry.

While Pinterest’s steps appear to have the organization moving in the right direction, a closer look shows that the remedial aims are still motivated by a desire to become more diverse in pay and representation. The subject of Brougher’s lawsuit was the lack of inclusion of her ideas, a wholly separate matter not remedied by merely “becoming more diverse.” While it is, of course, essential that all employees receive equal pay for equal work and that women and members of other protected classes should be represented (both in leadership and throughout the organization), actual culture change can only occur when the organization understands that it must not only be diverse, but also welcoming to the ideas, thoughts, and experiences of a wide range of people.

Syntrio has developed many courses to improve organizational culture and create a more inclusive environment. We believe that only through fostering an understanding of the importance of acceptance and implementation of a diverse range of beliefs and experiences can an organization reach its full potential for positive culture (with the side benefit of reducing potentially harmful incidents). In addition to its suite of harassment and discrimination prevention courses, Syntrio has a program concerning respect in the workplace, a Speak Up! culture, and a full range of diversity and inclusion courses. We invite you to contact a staff member today to demonstrate how we can assist you in this critical area.


Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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