Pinterest invests $50m in new gender equality centre

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Pinterest has pledged $50 million to build out a new diversity and inclusion centre as part of a global overhaul in response to discrimination claims brought by five women at the company. The Californian firm is also adding a new component to its open-source code base aimed at developing stronger internal management and tracking mechanisms to deal with sexism and gender-based harassment and discrimination.

Three of the women brought a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July alleging “systemic problems of gender bias and sexual harassment that go back years,” which they say hurt their work performance. The tech firm and its employees have also been sued by the five women and three men who say their pinkie has been bruised for years by the company’s gender biases and retaliation against them for raising sexual harassment complaints internally.

Plaintiffs Erin Gunn, Sarah Childs, Hannah Rosenberg, Mary Tinich, and Niki Christoff are described as “tweens” in the suit by one of the plaintiffs. Another plaintiff, Jared Kreiner, is described in the suit as an “adult” at the company and has been the subject of discrimination for years, the suit alleges.

According to screenshots provided to Axios by the women, Gunn has been harassed verbally and physically by her boss and alleges that coworkers have bullied her on multiple occasions. In May 2015, Gunn was allegedly mocked in a Halloween party photo, and a co-worker called her a “c***.”

Other incidents allegedly occurred to Gunn and Childs when the women were requesting new work hours. Gunn alleges that the co-workers replied to the request by saying, “You just wanna date a board member,” according to the suit. Childs alleges that when she took a “bro” into the office to get her a drink, she was groped by the man, it also alleges.

The seven women aren’t the only ones who allege discrimination at Pinterest: The blog TechCrunch in August wrote about a woman who said she was fired for being “macho” and “bossy.”

That woman, Kalela Whitfield, said the male co-founder and president told her to “drop your balls or you’re fired.”

“Every time I would think that we were making progress,” Whitfield said, “this one time in a major meeting, he just lost his shit and basically said it the way it is, don’t be dweeby and I want to punch you in the face.”

Last week, the ACLU tweeted that it filed a federal lawsuit against Pinterest to ensure the company complies with federal employee laws. The suit alleges that Pinterest violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by “soliciting and accepting allegations of discrimination” but “deferring to the views and opinions of male employees over that of women, allowing them to control and shape the work environment and express bias in discriminatory terms and conduct directed toward employees.”

Pinning away gender bias. Announcing $50M investment in a new D&I center today. We’re hiring a new CPO to make that happen. — Ami Vora 🎃 (@Ami_Vora) September 24, 2017

Pinterest says it’s working on a handful of initiatives to address discrimination. Its plan to create a new D&I Center will be a part of that. The board in which the company’s executives are elected will be reconfigured to “meaningfully increase the diversity of the board,” the company says. It’ll also be introducing improved controls and reporting tools. This is the first time Pinterest has offered details on its gender and diversity goals as part of a company-wide overhaul. The company is not releasing hiring targets or revenue figures but did say that it’s in talks with venture capital firms about increasing its presence in Silicon Valley.

“We’re committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming culture for everyone at Pinterest,” the company said in a statement. “We’re tackling each of these individual issues in our initiative to create the conditions where our employees feel free to express and share all manner of ideas, and to where their coworkers feel free to do the same.”

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Editor’s note: Updated to reflect settlement with ACLU.

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