Former Pinterest employees describe a traumatic workplace

Where managers humiliate employees until they cry, Black people feel alienated, and the toxic culture ‘eats away at your soul’

Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest’s public-policy and social-impact manager, was sitting in the front row for a women’s group meeting in spring 2019 when she nearly fell out of her chair. She was watching her boss, a 30-something male, lecture the women about how to negotiate for pay raises.

His underlying message: Adjust your expectations.

It wasn’t just the message, or the fact that two of the three people on the panel offering career guidance for women at Pinterest were men, that was infuriating. Ozoma had been lobbying unsuccessfully to have her pay leveled up to what she said others with her experience and responsibilities were earning, and her manager, who she said had stonewalled those efforts — and who several other sources identified as Charlie Hale — was staring directly at her as he spoke.

He “took the opportunity on the panel, with me sitting in the front row, to then gaslight me by saying things to the entire room full of women like, ‘You should only ask for what you deserve,'” Ozoma said.

Last week, Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two Black women on Hale’s team, publicly quit Pinterest and denounced what they described as a toxic company culture. Ozoma and Banks, despite having hired a lawyer to help them advocate for pay adjustments, did not get the advancement they sought and instead left the company. But what drove them away, they said, was much more than pay.

When a Pinterest employee shared Ozoma’s personal information with an internet hate group, she received rape and death threats, she said. Banks was demoted and interrogated by the company’s private investigator after she lobbied for giving contractors holiday pay, she said. (Her proposal had embarrassed a top executive, sources said).

Business Insider has since spoken with nine other former Pinterest employees in addition to Ozoma and Banks, eight of whom left the company between 2019 and May. Some shared email documents and other evidence to verify their version of events. These employees worked primarily in the New York office; some worked in the San Francisco headquarters or Europe. Although Business Insider knows the identities of the employees, we are honoring their requests for anonymity because they have not been authorized by the company to speak about their experiences.

Read the full story on Business Insider Premium.

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