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article imageOp-Ed: Pinterest 'sexism' case — Glass Ceiling vs brick wall in progress

By Paul Wallis     Aug 14, 2020 in World
New York - A case which could have profound ramifications for corporate America is about to start. It involves top dog social media giant Pinterest and allegations of sexism by its former COO. So far, even the allegations have been a PR disaster for Pinterest.
Readers please note – The allegations referred to have not been proven in a court of law. This is far too important a matter for “trial by media”. Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann expressed considerable concern about the many issues raised by the case, but stated that he couldn’t comment on specific issues for legal reasons.
The Pinterest bias story isn’t so much complex as baffling in a lot of ways. A top female executive named Françoise Brougher, former COO, has started a lawsuit alleging gender bias. Former female employees have stated that Pinterest has a boys’ club management, women are sidelined, and similar familiar tales of the Glass Ceiling at its hideous worst. It’s a sort of testimony that apparently some staff staged a virtual walkout as well. Additional allegations from some people about racism haven’t done much to improve the suddenly deteriorating image of the company, either.
What’s baffling is that a modern company could possibly get itself in such a truly prehistoric state. The Glass Ceiling is a fossil in all practical terms. It’s totally outdated in terms of female qualifications, skills, and basic common sense. It’s not even a theoretically rational condition for any modern company. Racism, the other looming catastrophe for Pinterest, is illegal, pure and simple. Why would any company expose itself to such risk?
This is a publicly listed company. How did so many things get so totally out of control? The stock is still currently near its high, but will the market believe in a board which is now risking looking utterly out of touch with basic managerial expectations? This could be a very expensive hit to investors and stockholders, if the market doesn’t like what it sees.
The overall picture painted by Ms Brougher’s lawsuit isn’t a good look in any possible context. Allegations include exclusion from decision-making, reduced stock options, a performance/peer review which contradicted stellar previous reviews, and similar “office politics”. These are pretty well-known mechanisms in business, but in this case, they’re potentially damning for Pinterest if proven.
The fury cometh
Very un-baffling is the storm of sheer negativity which this case has generated. The allegation of sexism is a very raw nerve in the public mind. Matters are not at all improved when a woman at this high executive level has supposedly broken through the Glass Ceiling to be met with another Glass Ceiling.
Pinterest is uniquely vulnerable in its core market as a result of these allegations. Pinterest ads sell a lot of female products, for example. Those advertisers may not be too happy about allegations of misogyny and sexism. Many of the advertising companies in this very high-value market are run by women, too.
That level of negative scrutiny means this case is a significant liability to Pinterest’s previously good public image on multiple fronts. Advertisers can vote with their money, and users with their clicks. Rubbing half of the world’s population the wrong way even on the basis of allegations isn’t considered to be good strategy, either.
Pinterest has some serious damage control to do, whatever the merits of this case. It can start by completely losing any policy or culture which causes such utter havoc. There’s big money, and baseline credibility, riding on what the company does next.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about pinterest social marketing, pinterest bias lawsuit, Francoise Brougher, glass ceiling, Sexism
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