A female exec is suing $3 billion Carta, alleging that the CEO likened her to an alcoholic who needed to recover from her ‘a–hole’ problem

  • The equity management software company Carta promoted gender equity in tech, but behind the scenes the company underpaid and retaliated against its lone female executive, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
  • Emily Kramer, former vice president of marketing at Carta, stepped down in November after CEO Henry Ward called her an “asshole” and said she got “passes” because she is a woman, according to the complaint.
  • Kramer said she faced discrimination and retaliation at the company after she became more vocal about the lack of women and people of color in leadership positions at the company.
  • Carta spokeswoman Lauren O’Mahony declined to comment.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Carta has raised more than $600 million in venture capital on the promise of spreading the wealth in Silicon Valley. But the promise of equal ownership did not extend to the company’s lone female executive, according to a new lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco county.

Emily Kramer, former vice president of marketing at the 8-year-old software company, stepped down from her role in November 2019 after what she describes as nearly two years of gender discrimination and retaliatory behavior at the company, stemming from her push for greater diversity on Carta’s executive team and on its board. 

She was the only female executive from the start of her tenure until two weeks before she left the company, according to the complaint.

“There are so many mission-driven companies in Silicon Valley, and some are genuine. But a lot of times, they are not practicing what they are preaching,” Kramer told Business Insider. “As the only woman exec, I championed these efforts and I was proud to do so. But when this is all happening behind the scenes, the hypocrisy becomes really bothersome.”

Carta spokeswoman Lauren O’Mahony declined to comment.

Read more: $3 billion Carta slashed its revenue goal but kept hiring anyway, leading to massive layoffs in April. Insiders describe whiplash and organizational chaos as the company attempts an ambitious new pivot.

Carta sells software to other startups to manage their equity structure and compensation. It’s backed by venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tribe Capital, and was last valued at $3.1 billion in a funding round this spring.

In September 2018, under Kramer’s leadership, the company published its first gender equity report, which found that while women make up 35% of all equity-holders at tech companies, they only hold 20% of that employee equity, and that for every dollar a male employee holds in equity, female employees own just 47 cents. 

The study closely mirrored Kramer’s own experience at Carta. When she joined the company in January 2018, she was offered a $225,000 salary and 150,000 shares of the company’s stock, which CEO Henry Ward declined to negotiate higher, according to the complaint.

An internal pay equity study completed later that year revealed a massive discrepancy between Kramer’s compensation and that of her male counterparts. Kramer’s salary was raised by $50,000 and her equity was nearly tripled, according to the lawsuit, but the company declined to pay Kramer back for the months in which she was underpaid or adjust her equity vesting schedule.

Fired for violating a ‘no a–holes’ policy

But even after her compensation was raised, Kramer said she was constantly excluded from executive meetings, and turned down for a promotion to the all-male C-suite over what CEO Henry Ward described as a problem with her “style,” according to the complaint.

Ward and other executives excluded Kramer from preparing the company’s Series E fundraising pitchdeck, which would include a slide featuring an outline of the history of wage labor, with “slavery” cited as the starting point. The slide also included an image of medieval serfs toiling in the fields. Kramer found the slide “highly offensive” and complained about it to Ward and HR. When Kramer attempted to remove the slide from being shown in a presentation at a tech conference, she was reprimanded by Ward, the lawsuit said.

In November 2019, less than two weeks after the company published its second annual pay equity report, Ward told Kramer she was “in violation of a ‘no assholes’ policy,” that she is “like an alcoholic who needed to admit her problem and have a full-scale recovery from being an asshole,” and that she had gotten “passes” because she is a woman, the lawsuit alleges.

Kramer stepped down following that conversation, which she believes was calculated to encourage her to resign.

“I think they were worried that if they terminated me that this could be a disaster for them because of the lack of women,” she said. 

Below is a copy of Kramer’s lawsuit:

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