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People

'I wrestled with what I considered hypocrisy at Carta daily'

Emily Kramer, former VP of marketing for the $3 billion startup, accuses the company of gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

A woman in shadow at the top of a staircase

Emily Kramer, former VP of marketing for Carta, says she was excluded from executive meetings and denied promotions to an all-male C-suite "over her style."

Photo: izusek/Getty Images

Compensation and equity software startup Carta had been one of the leading voices around gender equity in tech after its 2018 study showed that for every dollar in equity a male employee holds, women hold just 47 cents. In a blog post, its CEO Henry Ward pledged to do better and hire a woman to its board.

But the woman who led that study sued Carta on Tuesday. Emily Kramer, former VP of marketing for the the $3 billion startup, accuses the company of gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

  • Her complaint alleges that an internal study completed in 2018 showed that Kramer had been massively underpaid. Her salary was ultimately raised by $50,000 and her equity package nearly tripled, but she says she was denied when she asked for her pay and equity fix to be applied retroactively.
  • She claims to have objected to a slide in a pitch deck that included the word slavery and showed a picture of medieval serfs, saying it was "highly offensive." It remained in the pitch deck, despite her complaints to HR and Ward.
  • Her lawsuit also described being excluded from executive meetings and being denied promotions to an all-male C-suite "over her style." Despite the public promise to hire a female board member by the end of 2018, Ward has still not hired one to this day, the lawsuit claims.
  • In a one-on-one meeting last November, she alleged that Ward said she was "in violation of a 'no assholes' policy," that he repeatedly called her an asshole, and that he compared her to an alcoholic who needed to acknowledge she had a problem. She also claims that Ward said she had been given many passes because she is a woman.

Carta declined to comment on the lawsuit or make Ward available for an interview.

Another former employee wrote a post in support of Kramer that criticized Ward's leadership style, but it was later deleted.

Despite having spent two years trying to address gender equity and diversity and inclusion inside the company, Kramer said she felt like she was forced to resign after the conversation with Ward.

  • The cognitive dissonance between her company's external actions and what was happening internally was "sad and hurtful," she said. She tried leading internal change, like asking to diversify hiring panels, but said she was rebuffed.
  • "I spoke up and tried to do so with a direct style but also not too frequently, and I tried to do it in an appropriate way. And, as I allege in my suit, I was retaliated against," she said.

Still, she believes in Carta's mission of closing the gender equity gap, and her advice to any company struggling with diversity and inclusion is to start by evaluating pay.

  • "In general, I think inclusion starts with compensation," she told Protocol. "No matter what's happening, if you look over to the person next to you that's doing the exact same job — or maybe you're doing a more senior job — and you find out that your pay isn't the same, everything else that the company is doing for inclusion gets thrown out the window. So it needs to start there."
People

Beeper built the universal messaging app the world needed

It's an app for all your social apps. And part of an entirely new way to think about chat.

Beeper is an app for all your messaging apps, including the hard-to-access ones.

Image: Beeper

Eric Migicovsky likes to tinker. And the former CEO of Pebble — he's now a partner at Y Combinator — knows a thing or two about messaging. "You remember on the Pebble," he asked me, "how we had this microphone, and on Android you could reply to all kinds of messages?" Migicovsky liked that feature, and he especially liked that it didn't care which app you used. Android-using Pebble wearers could speak their replies to texts, Messenger chats, almost any notification that popped up.

That kind of universal, non-siloed approach to messaging appealed to Migicovsky, and it didn't really exist anywhere else. "Remember Trillian from back in the day?" he asked, somewhat wistfully. "Or Adium?" They were the gold-standard of universal messaging apps; users could log in to their AIM, MSN, GChat and Yahoo accounts, and chat with everyone in one place.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Politics

This is the future of the FTC

President Joe Biden has named Becca Slaughter acting chair of the FTC. In conversation with Protocol, she laid out her priorities for the next four years.

FTC commissioner Becca Slaughter may be President Biden's pick for FTC chair.

Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Becca Slaughter made a name for herself last year when, as a commissioner for the Federal Trade Commission, she breastfed her newborn baby during video testimony before the Senate, raising awareness about the plight of working parents during the pandemic.

But on Thursday, Slaughter's name began circulating for other reasons: She was just named as President Joe Biden's pick for acting chair of the FTC, an appointment that puts Slaughter at the head of antitrust investigations into tech giants, including Facebook.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

Google’s AI ethics team is furious with Jeff Dean

Members of Timnit Gebru's team at Google published a letter calling Google's paper review process discriminatory.

Timnit Gebru's firing has resulted in backlash against Jeff Dean.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images

Google AI lead Jeff Dean is in hot water with members of Timnit Gebru's team at Google, who published a letter Monday challenging his story about Gebru's resignation and calling the research paper review process discriminatory. Gebru's forced departure stemmed from conflict over a research paper about ethical questions for large-language models (which are a big research focus at Google Brain): Google wanted Gebru to take her name off the paper, Gebru threatened to resign, and then Google took that opportunity to remove her from the team.

  • The biggest revelation from the letter is that almost half of all research papers submitted for approval through Google's internal process are done so with a day or less notice to reviewers, despite Dean's claim that the process requires two weeks. He used that claim to justify why Google tried to force Gebru to retract or take her name off of the paper, and this letter seems to debunk that main defense.

More than 1,500 people at Google have signed a petition in support of Gebru and calling for changes to Google's paper review process, including senior engineers and team leaders. Gebru's boss, Samy Bengio, said he was "stunned" at her firing in a post. Others on her team and in the AI ethics community more broadly have written about their disappointment with Dean specifically, who has been a hero for many in the field. Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

People

The risk for Amazon of relying on AI to decide someone's mood

Amazon's new wearable wants to check users' body fat and "tone" with AI, which historically struggles with women and people of color.

Amazon's new Halo app and wearable.

Photo: Amazon

On the surface, Amazon's new Halo wearable seems like a pretty straightforward offering, on par with Apple's offerings and Google's Fitbit. The water resistant wearable band tracks your activity and sleep quality, but the app also has a few features that go well beyond what competitors offer. Unlike the next Apple Watch or the newest Fitbit, they could have potentially damaging ramifications if rolled out improperly.

The wearable will track what it calls your "tone," listening to how you sound when you speak all day, as well as giving you suggestions on how to improve your tone. "For example, tone results may reveal that a difficult work call leads to less positivity in communication with a customer's family, an indication of the impact of stress on emotional well-being," the company said in a release.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

People

TheBoardlist will match companies with all people of color seeking board seats

As tech companies scramble to improve diversity, the platform that previously sought female board candidates is now trying to close the racial gap on boards, too.

TheBoardlist's founder and chair Sukhinder Singh Cassidy said the shift is a direct response to a spike in demand for board members of color.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

As corporations across the country commit to diversifying their ranks, theBoardlist, which helps companies find female board members, is committing to diversify its repository of talent too.

The company is now opening its online platform to all people of color, regardless of gender, hoping to help businesses address racial inequities on their boards of directors. The shift, says founder and chair Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, is a direct response to the calls for racial justice that have followed the killing of George Floyd by police. But it's also a response to what Singh Cassidy said has been a surge in demand from companies seeking more representation of people of color on their boards recently. In the last two months, 90% of searches on the Boardlist have been for women of color.

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
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