Popular dating app Tinder is being hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit by co-founder and former executive Whitney Wolfe. Wolfe filed a complaint accusing her fellow senior executives of harassment, discrimination, verbal abuse, and downplaying her role in the company because of her gender.
Wolfe named Tinder’s marketing chief Justin Mateen and CEO Sean Rad as leading in “atrocious sexual harassment” and discriminatory behavior that culminated in Wolfe being forced to resign. According to the lawsuit, Mateen repeatedly called Wolfe a “whore” in front of coworkers and the CEO. Wolfe also says Mateen and Rad stripped her of her “co-founder” title because having a young female co-founder “makes the company seem like a joke.” Tinder’s owners, Match.com and IAC, Inc., are also named on the suit.
According to the complaint, Mateen sent Wolfe a deluge of threatening text messages after she broke off their romantic relationship, accusing her of lying about her personal life and making threats like like, “If I find out you lied to me about this, we will have a problem.” When Wolfe brought up the abusive behavior to Rad, “he ignored her complaints, dismissing her as ‘annoying’ and ‘dramatic,’ and threatened her job,” the lawsuit stated. Wolfe also says Rad essentially fired her after she asked if she could quit with severance and vested stock options.
Tinder’s lawsuit is the latest example of the gender-based discrimination women face in the tech industry. SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel was recently outed for sending lascivious emails to his fellow fraternity brothers while attending Stanford University, some of which encouraged others to get girls drunk enough to have sex with them. Earlier this year, former Github developer Julie Ann Horvath publicly quit the firm after repeatedly witnessing and experiencing sexual harassment, including being punished professionally for spurning a male coworker’s romantic advances.
The tech industry — both startups and big companies like Google and Yahoo — have struggled with gender inclusion and its overall “brogrammer” culture. Men in tech outnumber women seven to three and make up an overwhelming majority of leadership positions. That disparity has been shown to shut women out for not “fitting the culture” or because they are considered unqualified. Once hired, women in tech frequently face sexual harassment and discriminatory policies that ignore gender-based harassment in the workplace. This kind of culture has also been blamed for the droves of women leaving science and technology jobs much sooner than their male counterparts.
The tech industry’s homogeneous culture has also been attributed to cultivating bad policies that alienate female customers by painting them as technologically challenged or excluding them altogether. Assassin’s Creed video game developer Ubisoft recently angered fans for refusing to add a lead female character to its newest game because it “too much work,” ignoring the fact that half of all gamers are women. Microsoft also fended off backlash earlier this year after it released a controversial commercial implying that women only use computers for wedding planning and checking Pinterest. Google faced similar allegations after airing a Gmail tutorial that suggested a woman could use the email service’s new format to easily confirm dates and shop for shoes. Since then, the company has launched new initiatives to get more young girls and women interested in tech and improve diversity.