Making women like your technology starts with listening to the women working on it. That’s not what former VP of marketing at Magic Leap Tannen Campbell says she experienced while on the job.
Campbell was brought in by the company to help improve Magic Leap’s appeal to women but she is now suing the augmented reality startup for sexual discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed in the southern district court of Florida, Campbell alleges company CEO Rony Abovitz brought her in to solve the company’s “pink/blue problem,” referring to the disproportionate ratio of men to women in leadership positions at Magic Leap.
A disproportionate amount of men in decision-making positions is nothing new in the tech industry. However, Campbell claims it was an uphill battle to change a company culture of misogyny and that leadership blocked her efforts to make changes that would be more friendly to women.
According to the complaint, Campbell tried for seven months to get Abovitz to attend a presentation on gender diversity that included proposed changes to make the startup a more friendly environment. But, says the suit, the CEO walked out halfway through the meeting after finally listening to the presentation.
Campbell says she also proposed a mentorship program pairing men and women together, increasing paternity leave to show Magic Leap valued child-rearing as both a male and female role, tying diversity to bonuses and implementing unconscious-bias training — all of which the suit says were ignored by senior executives at the startup.
Campbell was later fired for what she alleges was a challenge to Abovitz to “acknowledge the depths of misogyny in Magic Leap’s culture and take steps to correct a gender imbalance that negatively affects the company’s core culture and renders it so dysfunctional it continues to delay the launch of a product that attracted billions of investment dollars,” according to the suit.
Magic Leap has raised $1.39 billion, including from well-known investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Google, JPMorgan, Fidelity and Alibaba and promises to mix the line between the real and augmented world. The company website shows a giant whale jumping out of basketball court, for instance.
Though doubts about the product continue to plague the startup. Just this month, Magic Leap finally revealed a first look at its hardware, causing many to joke that it looked like a backpack or a leaf blower.
And though sexual discrimination lawsuits are often hard to win, the lawsuit is just another chink in the billion-dollar startup’s virtual exterior.
We’ve reached out to both Campbell and Magic Leap for more on this case but have so far not heard back. We’ll be sure to update you when we do.