November 29, 2021

Ifeoma Ozoma Blew the Whistle on Pinterest. Now She Protects Whistle-Blowers.

Much of Ms. Ozoma’s work stems from experience. In June 2020, she and a colleague, Aerica Shimizu Banks, publicly accused their former employer, the virtual pinboard maker Pinterest, of racism and sexism. Pinterest initially denied the allegations but later apologized for its workplace culture. Its workers staged a walkout, and a former executive sued the company over gender discrimination.

“It’s remarkable how Ifeoma has taken some very painful experiences, developed solutions for them and then built a movement around making those solutions a reality,” said John Tye, the founder of Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit that provides legal support to whistle-blowers. He and Ms. Ozoma recently appeared on a webinar to educate people on whistle-blower rights.

Meredith Whittaker, a former Google employee who helped organize a 2018 walkout over the company’s sexual harassment policy, added of Ms. Ozoma: “She has stuck around and worked to help others blow the whistle more safely.”

Ms. Ozoma, who grew up in Anchorage and Raleigh, N.C., became an activist after a five-year career in the tech industry. A political science major, she moved to Washington, D.C., in 2015 to join Google in government relations. She then worked at Facebook in Silicon Valley on international policy.

In 2018, Pinterest recruited Ms. Ozoma to its public policy team. There, she helped bring Ms. Banks on board. They spearheaded policy decisions including ending the promotion of anti-vaccination information and content related to plantation weddings on Pinterest, Ms. Ozoma said.

Yet Ms. Ozoma and Ms. Banks said they faced unequal pay, racist comments and retaliation for raising complaints at Pinterest. They left the company in May 2020. A month later, during the Black Lives Matter protests, Pinterest posted a statement supporting its Black employees.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/24/technology/pinterest-whistle-blower-ifeoma-ozoma.html

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