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."
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