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Lawsuit takes aim at tech firm’s ‘bro culture’ and alleged man-splaining

Claims in a lawsuit against a Bay Area camera firm make up a laundry list of issues women point to as causes of the gender disparity in Silicon Valley’s tech industry.
Former Light marketing director Gretchen Vagharshakian claimed in the lawsuit that she was wrongfully terminated by the San Francisco company, in part because of her pregnancy and motherhood. The firm’s “bro culture” created a workplace hostile to women, she alleged.
Light did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vagharshakian, who said in the suit she started at Light in August 2015, alleged that the company’s management directed her to work without compensation during her unpaid maternity leave. Because she was not being paid, and ended up working nearly full time, she asked the firm if she could end her leave 10 days early, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco County Superior Court. Instead, she was fired while on leave, and told that her termination was part of a workforce reduction, the suit alleged.
When Vagharshakian asked about the staffing cut, she was given a copy of a document that showed only two people were let go, the suit said. “The two women terminated were the only two women left in the San Francisco office,” the suit alleged, “the others having been terminated by Light or driven to quit by its work environment.”

As the #MeToo movement against male misconduct gathers force in Silicon Valley, women are beginning to direct criticism less at the “pipeline” that feeds young women into the tech industry, and more at conditions within tech companies that can make it harder for females than for males to succeed. Common complaints include men talking over women at meetings, men taking credit for female colleagues’ ideas, and men “man-splaining” things women already know or have already said.
Light, best known for its high-resolution, multi-lens L16 camera, “knowingly maintained an unlawful man-centric corporate culture that trivializes women and their contributions,” according to Vagharshakian’s suit.
The firm’s beleaguered female employees created “The Women of Light” support group, and met regularly, the suit claimed. At one meeting, they put together an email containing suggestions for the company’s management, the suit said. Among the listed grievances were men “re-explaining” what women already said then presenting the information as if it were their own, according to a court filing. Another problem was “steam-rolling of women in meetings,” according to the filing.
“Some women come to meetings with the intentions to brainstorm ideas and share work in progress to get input,” the email purportedly said. “They get shut down by those with louder voices and strong opinions. This results in women choosing to be quiet in meetings.”
The email also highlighted meetings scheduled for 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., that “are not conducive to motherhood.”
Female employees asked the company to provide unconscious-bias training and training related to the “unlawful workplace culture,” but nothing significant was done, the suit claimed.
“Light leadership never made any effort to remedy the ‘bro culture’ of its company … or undertake any other reasonable effort to avoid or remedy its discriminatory and harassing corporate culture,” the suit alleged.

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