Former Pinterest COO Francoise Brougher Files Lawsuit Over Termination

Her allegations were similar to those of two other women who left the company in May

Yet another woman who recently left a high-level position at Pinterest fired shots at the company, this time in the form of a lawsuit.

Former chief operating officer Francoise Brougher, who left the company in April, filed suit against her former employer in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco, alleging that she was unlawfully terminated for bringing up issues, including sexist comments directed toward her, to chief human resources officer Jo Dennis and co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann.

A Pinterest spokesperson said, “We remain committed to advancing our culture to ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported, which is why there is an ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies and practices. We’re reviewing the complaint filed. Our employees are incredibly important to us, and we take all concerns brought to our attention seriously.”

Brougher’s allegations mirror similar complaints voiced via Twitter in June by two Black women who left the company in May after each holding the role of public policy and social impact manager, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks.

Silbermann responded to the allegations raised by Ozoma and Banks in an email to staff, admitting that the company lacked diverse representation, particularly in senior leadership, and saying that recruiting plans for senior-level roles are now “baked into” the core role expectations and performance reviews for Pinterest’s leadership team.

He wrote in the June email, “What I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that parts of our culture are broken. Truthfully, I didn’t understand just how much work we have to do. That’s not an excuse, that’s a failure in leadership, and I’m truly sorry for letting you down. I’m grateful that so many of you had the courage to share your experiences honestly and openly.”

Brougher also shared a lengthy post on Medium, outlining her gripes with Pinterest in exhaustive detail.

She wrote, “Although 70% of Pinterest’s users are women, the company is steered by men with little input from female executives. Pinterest’s female executives, even at the highest levels, are marginalized, excluded and silenced. I know because until my firing in April, I was Pinterest’s chief operating officer.”

Brougher wrote that she was fired not due to her performance, but for not being “collaborative,” and other issues she discussed included:

  • Important decisions at the company were made in sidebar conversations between Silbermann and his closest lieutenants, all men.
  • Despite being the only top executive who had taken a company public, she was excluded from Pinterest’s analysts’ day leading up to its initial public offering in April 2019, even though her slides were used during the presentation.
  • When Pinterest filed its S1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission as part of the IPO process, Brougher learned that other top executives had far more favorable vesting agreements, even though she was told otherwise upon her hire.
  • Once the company went public, she was no longer invited to board meetings, and no explanation was given.
  • After bringing up usability issues with Pinterest’s advertising tools, she said she was also no longer invited to product team meetings.
  • She was then told in her performance review that she was “not collaborative.”
  • She clashed with chief financial officer Todd Morgenfeld on several occasions, saying that he asked her, “What is your job anyway?,” said in her performance review that “she seems to be a champion for diversity issues” and yelled at her and hung up with her when she called him to discuss his feedback.
  • Silbermann fired her during a 10-minute video call, asking her to tell her team that leaving the company was her choice, and that she would be remaining on board for one month to ease the transition for her successor, Morgenfeld.

Brougher wrote, “I was not going to lie to my team and did not sign the non-disclosure agreement presented to me. 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. It was time for a company that caters to women to respect their own.”