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‘Blatant racism in practice’: For Pinterest whistleblowers, COO’s settlement is a slap in the face

Earlier this week, Pinterest settled a gender discrimination lawsuit with its former chief operating officer for $22.5 million—one of the largest public individual settlements for gender discrimination in history. The eight-figure award goes to Francoise Brougher, once the number two executive at Pinterest, who says she was fired in retaliation for raising claims of pay disparity, discrimination, and exclusion at the virtual pinboard company.

But despite its historic nature, the settlement also reveals a stark difference between how Pinterest compensated Brougher, a white woman, and how it responded to two Black women who were the first to criticize the company’s workplace culture.

Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks went public in June with allegations of racial and gender discrimination, two months before Brougher filed suit. Their stories generated a media firestorm, inspired additional women to speak out, and fueled a social media backlash against Pinterest, which until then had maintained a reputation as the nicest company in tech.

The publicity was a major factor in Brougher’s suit. As she told me in October, it was Ozoma and Banks that “gave [her] the courage to come forward.” A settlement arrived just four months later, a whirlwind timeline considering that gender discrimination suits can drag on for years. “Her team was able to establish a culture of discrimination that could not be questioned because of us,” Ozoma says.

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