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Earlier this week a lawsuit was filed against dating/hookup app Tinder by former marketing vice president Whitney Wolfe. The complaint: sexual harassment and discrimination that forced her out of the company. And the evidence – a series of text messages received by Wolfe — laid forth in the lawsuit, thus far, looks pretty incriminating. The complaint centers on text messages and comments made by co-founder and chief marketing officer Justin Mateen, who has since been suspended, and also charges that co-founder and CEO Sean Rad did little to intervene.
Mateen and Wolfe had reportedly been romantically involved. As the romance soured Mateen allegedly sent harassing text messages to Wolfe and called her a “whore” at a work party and a “desperate loser” in a marketing meeting.
Below is the internal memo from Tinder, obtained by TechCrunch:
I know it’s been a difficult 24 hours for all of us…
I’ve learned a lot through this process and I wish I had done more in terms of managing what was clearly a complex situation. The communications between Justin and Whitney that have come to my attention through this process are just unacceptable. However, as many of you know, Whitney’s legal complaint is full of factual inaccuracies and omissions. We did not discriminate against Whitney because of her age or gender, and her complaint paints an inaccurate picture of my actions and what went on here. We take gender equality very seriously and none of this reflects the Tinder and culture that we have worked so hard to create.
I truly appreciate your dedication.
Founder & CEO, Tinder”
TechCrunch points out that “both sides” of the story will emerge in court, and that thus far we’ve only heard Wolfe’s. But the entire conclusion of the piece ignores the fact that a woman, working in tech, felt compelled to leave a job at a company she helped build because she was allegedly being harassed. And worse, she’s not the first to speak out about being mistreated to the point of leaving employment. Let that sink in.
If Silicon Valley and its offshoots want to be innovators and game changers, it is beyond a product: It is work environment and management and employee treatment that make a company great. Tech inventors have the spotlight in terms of creation and creativity. With it is a chance to be leaders in equality and diversity and positive leadership practices: Thus far major companies are known for the endemic “brogrammer” culture and startling inequality.
Tinder, if you take gender equality seriously, demonstrate it.
Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email email@example.com.More Sarah Gray.