Pinterest accused of not paying female ‘co-creator’

Pinterest accused of not paying female ‘co-creator’

SAN FRANCISCO — When Pinterest went public in 2019, friends of Christine Martinez sent congratulations. She worked closely with the founders of Digital Pinboard in her early days, and her friends thought she would get rich with them.

But as Pinterest’s share price soared, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez realized she would not be compensated or credited for their contributions, she said.

He sued on Monday.

In a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Ms. Martinez accused Ben Silberman and Paul Cyra, two of Pinterest’s three co-founders, of implied breach of contract, plagiarism, unjust promotion and unfair business practices. The lawsuit states that Ms Martinez created Pinterest with Mr Silberman and Mr Saira, contributing ideas such as “key event concepts”, such as organizing images on boards and enabling e-commerce.

Ms Martinez, 40, was never formally employed by Pinterest, nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given the stock, although she said the founders of Pinterest had verbally agreed to compensate her several times.

Ms Martinez argued that there was an implied contract between her and the founders based on their discussions. According to the complaint, Pinterest even named a portion of its source code after him. And she was so close friends with the co-founders that she brought them both home for Christmas and was a bridesmaid at Mr. Silbermann’s wedding.

“I always hoped that when they compensated me, they would,” she said, naive. “There was never any doubt in my mind.”

Pinterest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The lawsuit rekindles questions about whether Pinterest, which primarily caters to female users, is hostile to women and minorities in its workplace.

the last summer, efoma ozoma And Erika Shimizu Bank, two former Pinterest employees wrote on Twitter about pay disparities, retaliation and the sexist, racist comments they experienced at the company. Shortly thereafter, the former chief operating officer of Pinterest, Francois Brougher, sued the company, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation.

In response, Pinterest employees held a virtual walkout in August last year, demanding that the company increase the number of women and minorities in its top ranks and provide more transparency around promotion levels, retention and pay.

In December, the company agreed to a $22.5 million settlement with Ms. Bruegger, with a $2.5 million donation to charities for women and minorities underrepresented in tech. Pinterest shareholders then sued the company and its board over its workplace culture.

Ms. Ozoma has helped sponsor the Silenced No More Act in California, which would broaden the protection of employees speaking out about discrimination or harassment at work. It was recently passed by the state legislature.

Ms Martinez said she was not surprised to see headlines about Pinterest’s culture and was dismayed by the separation between the company’s male founders and its female users.

“I’ve spent a lot of years getting really confused by how people believe these three men made this kind of product for women — that they understand women so well,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, in 2008, a year before Pinterest was founded, Mr. Silberman and Mr. Cyra sought Martinez’s advice on a wide range of concepts, from its name and features to its marketing strategy and product road map.

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Ms. Martinez studied interior design, created a lifestyle blog and founded LAMA Designs, an e-commerce start-up. Even though LAMA’s business model was working and showing promise, venture capitalists didn’t take it seriously, and it said it struggled to raise funds.

Yet funding for Pinterest, based on an idea and the credentials of Mr. Silberman and Mr. Saira, turned out to be easy. Ms Martinez said she looked forward to helping her friends.

“They had no marketing background or expertise in creating products for women,” she said. “My role was always to educate them.”

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Martinez gave the co-founders the idea to arrange the images on a “board,” a core feature of the site; Created your call-to-action phrase, “pin it”; and established its core categories, including home decor, fashion and DIY. She also helped Mr. Silberman persuade top design and lifestyle bloggers to use and promote Pinterest. She took him to conventions, gathered feedback from the community and honored the pitch to him, she said.

Ms Martinez said she realized she would not be compensated only after Pinterest went public in 2019.

Soon after, she said, a death in the family caused her to reflect on her own life. This encouraged her to speak up about Pinterest.

“I can’t take it to my grave,” she said.

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