(Bloomberg) — Emily Kramer helped Carta Inc. build a brand that emphasized fair compensation for women in the startup world. On Tuesday, she sued her former employer saying it did just the opposite—paying her less than her male peers and subjecting her to other forms of gender discrimination.
Carta makes software used by more than 14,000 companies, including Axios Media Inc. and Robinhood Markets Inc., to manage data for their stockholders. Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz valued the company at more than $1 billion last year and recently discussed a possible investment that would push the valuation to $3 billion.
Since 2018, Carta has published widely cited research showing men hold a disproportionate amount of paper wealth in Silicon Valley, and the company has advocated to close the gender-equity gap. The 2018 study found women make up 35% of stockholding employees and account for an even smaller share of ownership. The San Francisco company held a conference in its hometown last year called Table Stakes, where the chief executive officer, Henry Ward, declared: “Fair equity should be table stakes.” Carta bought billboard space on Highway 101 in support of the campaign.
Kramer, the former vice president of marketing at Carta, played a key role in spreading this message. She oversaw publication of the gender-pay research and related projects. Behind the scenes, though, Carta did little to resolve its own inequities, Kramer alleged in the lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for Carta declined to comment.
In her complaint filed in San Francisco, Kramer accused Carta of repeatedly failing to live up to its promises of gender parity. Ward pledged in a post on Medium in 2018 to add a woman to its all-male board by the end of that year and still hasn’t done so, according to a stamped copy of the complaint reviewed by Bloomberg. The lawsuit couldn’t immediately be verified in court records.
A few months after Kramer joined Carta in 2018, the company audited compensation to ensure men and women were being paid fairly, according to the complaint. As a result, Carta raised Kramer’s salary by $50,000 and tripled her stock grants, which she said suggested she had been underpaid. The company acknowledged issues when it published the results of a companywide audit the following year, saying it found some problems and addressed them.
Kramer claimed Ward held back her career and overlooked her advice because she was a woman. She alleged Ward elevated a male vice president with less experience and then declined her request for a promotion.
In late 2019, a couple of weeks after the Table Stakes event, Kramer said a meeting with Ward spiraled out of control. Ward told her she was in violation of the company’s “no a–hole” policy and that she had gotten “passes” for being a woman, according to the complaint. She said she resigned two days later.
“Equity has this massive impact on private wealth,” Kramer said in an interview. “Companies have an obligation to issue equity more fairly. That’s what Carta stood for, and I was really excited for the opportunity to tell that story.”
(Updates with response from Carta in the fifth paragraph.)
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