Goldman Sachs, Tinder slapped with sex discrimination lawsuits


Tinder’s Justin Mateen attends Variety’s Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit on May 5, 2014. in Marina del Rey, Calif. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety)

This week has not been a good one for some dude-dominated industries. Charges were made by former female executives against tech startup Tinder and banking giant Goldman Sachs. The filings portray Silicon Valley’s “brogrammers” as a West Coast version of Wall Street’s banker bros.

Whitney Wolfe, former marketing vice president of the popular dating app Tinder, is suing the company for “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination.” The suit, filed Monday, alleges Tinder executives called Wolfe a “whore” on multiple occasions and revoked her title because having a young female co-founder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” it, the complaint says.

The suit references numerous text messages to Wolfe from Justin Mateen, Tinder’s chief marketing officer, whom she dated for about a year. In the messages, Mateen allegedly harasses Wolfe verbally, threatens her job and calls her a “whore.”

“Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder’s senior executives as ‘frat-like,’” the complaint says, “it was in fact much worse- representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups.” (Abby Philip of The Washington Post has this roundup of the most salacious allegations.)

In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman for IAC, Tinder’s parent company that was also named in the suit, said it had immediately suspended Mateen after receiving the allegations and began an ongoing internal investigation, The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor reported. “Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content,” the statement said. “We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”

McGregor cites other examples of Silicon Valley sexism – at Snapchat, Rap Genius and RadiumOne to name a few – in a blog post about the case, and concludes with bitter sentiment that the latest revelations will do little to change broggramer culture: “All of these incidents come at the same time that the industry grapples with increasing calls for transparency about its gender makeup and struggles to recruit and retain more female engineers.”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by two former female Goldman Sachs employees against the firm alleges Wall Street sexism. On Tuesday, the women asked for a judge’s approval to expand the lawsuit they first filed in 2010 claiming women at the investment firm were paid less and awarded fewer promotions than male co-workers.

Goldman has described the suit as “without merit. “People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals,” the company said when it was filed.

But the new filing, made public on Tuesday, expands upon detailed allegations of rampant sexism and harassment at the investment firm. “This constellation of evidence reflects widespread concerns among women about gender bias and a ‘boys club’ atmosphere; the sexualization of women and an uncorrected culture of sexual harassment and assault,” the complaint says.

It describes company-sponsored strip club outings, golf trips to which women employees weren’t invited, push-up contests at the office, and one occasion where a female vice president was allegedly pinned against the wall and groped by a male associate who had walked her home. One female trader was separated from male traders and allegedly forced to sit with all-female administrative assistants; another says she was asked to do administrative work that her male co-workers were never asked to do. The suit includes new statements to support those allegations, which appeared in the original suit filed in 2010, as well as statistical evidence compiled from gender discrimination complaints made against Goldman by other female employees that a judge ordered the firm to disclose in 2013. The women claim female vice presidents at Goldman earned 21 percent less than their male counterparts and female associates earned 8 percent less. Another claim: 23 percent fewer vice presidents who were women earned promotions to managing director.

The filing, which is partially redacted, also includes a statement from Allison Gamba, who still works at Goldman. In a statement obtained by Buzzfeed, Gamba claimed she was “passed over” for a promotion from vice president to managing director in 2008 because of her gender. She earned $9.5 million for the bank that year, a $3.5 million increase from the year before, she claimed. Instead, the promotion went “to a male who earned less profit for the firm” whom other colleagues considered a “lesser trader” than her. She also claims she spoke to a senior executive who refused to support her candidacy because “he would be ridiculed if he did.”

The women are asking the judge to certify a class including all female vice presidents and associates who worked in Goldman’s investment banking, investment management and securities divisions anywhere in the United States from Sept. 10, 2004, to the present, and for women who worked in New York City from July 7, 2002, to now. They are asking for back pay and damages.

Regarding the effort to certify the class, Goldman spokesman David Wells told Buzzfeed: “This is a normal and anticipated procedural step for any proposed class action lawsuit and does not change the case’s lack of merit.”

Writing for The Street, Susan Antilla lamented the ongoing problem of Wall Street sexism. “ You thought it was all over when the women at Smith Barney sued in the 1990s after the disgrace of ‘The Boom-Boom Room?’ Well, you thought wrong.”

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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