Carta, a US-based equity management software firm, faces a discrimination lawsuit against a former vice president of marketing, according to Bloomberg.
Emily Kramer helped Carta build a brand that emphasized fair compensation for women in the start-up world. But on 21 July, Kramer sued her former employer saying it did just the opposite — paying her less than her male peers and subjecting her to other forms of gender discrimination.
“My suit alleges claims for gender discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the California Equal Pay Act, and failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination, retaliation, and harassment,” says Kramer in a Medium post.
In her complaint filed in San Francisco, Kramer accused Carta of repeatedly failing to live up to its promises of gender parity.
The lawsuit couldn’t immediately be verified in court records.
Carta makes software used by more than 14,000 companies, including Axios Media and Robinhood Markets, to manage data for their stockholders.
Read more: How to shift gender balance in fintech
Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz valued the company at more than $1 billion last year and recently discussed a possible investment that would push the valuation to $3 billion.
Since 2018, Carta has published widely cited research showing men hold a disproportionate amount of paper wealth in Silicon Valley, and the company has advocated to close the gender-equity gap.
The 2018 study found women make up 35% of stockholding employees and account for an even smaller share of ownership.
The San Francisco company held a conference in its hometown last year called Table Stakes, where the chief executive officer, Henry Ward, declared: “Fair equity should be table stakes.” Carta bought billboard space on Highway 101 in support of the campaign.
Kramer played a key role in spreading this message. She oversaw publication of the gender-pay research and related projects. Behind the scenes, though, Carta did little to resolve its own inequities, Kramer alleged in the lawsuit.
Ward pledged in a post on Medium in 2018 to add a woman to its all-male board by the end of that year and still hasn’t done so, according to a stamped copy of the complaint reviewed by Bloomberg.
A few months after Kramer joined Carta in 2018, the company audited compensation to ensure men and women were being paid fairly, according to the complaint.
As a result, Carta raised Kramer’s salary by $50,000 and tripled her stock grants, which she said suggested she had been underpaid. The company acknowledged issues when it published the results of a companywide audit the following year, saying it found some problems and addressed them.
Kramer claimed Ward held back her career and overlooked her advice because she was a woman. She alleged Ward elevated a male vice president with less experience and then declined her request for a promotion.
In late 2019, a couple of weeks after the Table Stakes event, Kramer said a meeting with Ward spiraled out of control. Ward told her she was in violation of the company’s “no a–hole” policy and that she had gotten “passes” for being a woman, according to the complaint. She said she resigned two days later.
“Equity has this massive impact on private wealth,” Kramer says in an interview. “Companies have an obligation to issue equity more fairly. That’s what Carta stood for, and I was really excited for the opportunity to tell that story.”
A spokeswoman for Carta declined to comment.
See also: All things equal