October 29, 2020

Former Pinterest COO says company suffers from misogynistic workplace


Francoise Brougher

Source: Pinterest

Francoise Brougher, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, published a 4,000-word blog post on Tuesday, accusing the company of having a discriminatory, misogynistic and hostile work environment that silences female executives. 

Brougher, who was fired earlier this year, published the blog post shortly after the New York Times reported that she filed a lawsuit against the company for gender discrimination. While sexism, harassment and a lack of diversity are known problems in Silicon Valley, tech companies rarely face lawsuits from senior leaders. 

“According to Pinterest, I was fired not for the results I achieved, but for not being ‘collaborative,'” wrote Brougher, who was COO from March 2018 until April, and previously held executive positions at Square and Google. “I believe that I was fired for speaking out about the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest.”

Brougher did not mention the lawsuit in her blog post, but cataloged the many ways that she was allegedly mistreated and the times that her views were dismissed during her tenure. Specifically, Brougher says she was excluded from important meetings by Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann after sounding the alarm about a key issue regarding the company’s advertising systems and its impact on revenue.

“Ben, in addition to being CEO, was also head of product,” she wrote. “Now suddenly I was disinvited from all the product team meetings.”

Brougher also said her equity vested on a different schedule than Pinterest’s other executives, which she realized after the company filed its IPO prospectus in 2019. She said that in her first year she vested just 37% of what her closest peer, CFO Todd Morgenfeld, vested in his first year at the company. 

“Discovering that I was given a less favorable vesting schedule was upsetting, but what really bothered me was that I had been misled,” she wrote. 

Pinterest said in a preliminary earnings statement in April that Brougher was leaving effective immediately and that her responsibilities would be passed to Morgenfeld. In the statement, Silbermann thanked Brougher for her “substantial contributions” and said that, “as we continue to position the company for long-term growth, we believe consolidating our financial and COO organizations under one leader will accelerate our speed of execution.”

Ben Silbermann, co-founder and chief executive officer of Pinterest Inc., center, rings the opening bell on the floor on the New York Stock Exchange during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) in New York, on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Brougher wrote that Morgenfeld discriminated against her based on gender, writing in her performance review that her single accomplishment at the company was being a champion for 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 asking the company’s human resources department to help her repair her relationship with Morgenfeld, Brougher said she was informed that an investigation into Morgenfeld found he had done nothing wrong. A week later, Silbermann fired Brougher over a video call, she wrote in a section of her post titled “The Retaliation.”

Brougher said she was asked by Silbermann to tell her team that she was leaving by choice and to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“I was not going to lie to my team and did not sign the NDA presented to me,” she 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.”

Pinterest did not respond to a request for comment. 

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