Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout on Friday over long-bubbling concerns over racial and gender discrimination at the social media company.
The walkout came just days after former COO Francoise Brougher, who left Pinterest in April, sued the company for unlawful termination. The suit alleges sexist comments from other executives including co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann.
Separately, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two Black women, levied similar charges of racism and sexism at the company after quitting in recent months.
The walkout was organized on ChangeAtPinterest.com, which urged staff to sign an anonymous petition; change their Slack profile pictures to the faces of Brougher, Ozoma and Shimizu; and “walk out” virtually by posting the following message on Slack: “I am [upset/angry/shocked/unhappy/whatever you’re feeling] about the racial and gender discrimination that has happened at Pinterest, and am leaving work early today. Join me. changeatpinterest.com.”
The organizers stated they believe Silbermann “is a good person trying to do the right thing,” but “even when unintended, all forms of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest must stop.”
It’s unclear how many participated in the various facets of the call to action, but 416 employees signed the anonymous petition.
Through a spokesperson, Pinterest acknowledged it has “real work to do” and that it’s the company’s responsibility to “build a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for everyone.”
“We respect and hear the employees who want to see a clear commitment to action, and we will ensure an open dialogue that leads to progress to make Pinterest the place we all know it can be,” the company said in the statement.
Silberman previously admitted that parts of Pinterest’s culture are “broken.” He pledged to add a person of color to the public company’s board, mandated unconscious bias training for employees and pledged to improve recruiting practices. The company also retained an outside firm, Wilmer Hale, to conduct a review of its workplace culture.
Brougher, Ozoma and Shimizu each expressed their support for the walkouts in messages on social media and in interviews.
“Feeling empowered and grateful by all of the voices joining together on this issue!” Brougher tweeted. “I stand in solidarity with the Pinterest employees participating in today’s walkout. When we speak out, we create change!”
In June, Facebook employees also staged a virtual walkout in protest of the company’s policies of hate and misinformation, a demonstration that preceded a massive advertiser boycott in July.
While Pinterest planned to announce its new board seat Friday, the announcement was delayed by the staff walkout. A Pinterest spokesperson said the company would be revealing the new board member “soon.”