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These last few months haven’t been the best for augmented reality company Magic Leap. The latest scandal to hit the company comes via a sexual discrimination lawsuit, filed by a former VP who was hired to help the firm appeal to women.
Tannen Campbell, Magic Leap’s former vice president of marketing and brand identity, says the company is a hostile working place for women. She was hired by CEO Rony Abovitz to “help with the pink/blue problem,” referring to the lack of women in leadership positions and its male-focused marketing.
Campbell claims that in her first month at the company, she was asked to prepare a presentation to highlight the lack of gender diversity at the firm. The lawsuit alleges that it took seven months to convince Abovitz to attend the presentation, and when he finally did, he left halfway through it.
Another alleged incident involves a female hire asking IT support lead Euen Thompson a question, to which he responded: "women always have trouble with computers." When asked to repeat his statement, the technician allegedly replied: “In IT we have a saying; stay away from the Three Os: Orientals, Old People and Ovaries.” Campbell assured the woman that Thompson would no longer be giving new hire orientations as a result, but he continued to do so.
The complaint also references a call between Magic Leap CFO Scott Henry, head of operations Tina Tuli, and the leadership team of major advertising company R/GA. During the call, Henry said of the product under development, ‘I’m sitting here between two beautiful ladies. They’re not going to want to put a big ugly device over their pretty faces. And I have an office with glass doors, I don’t want people to see me with these beautiful girls with ugly things on their faces.’
There are claims that a group of female employees proposed changes to one of the prototype headsets that would make it a better fit for typically female clothes and hairstyles. They wanted it to be more suitable for ponytails and take into account the fact that many women don’t wear belts, but the suggestions weren’t taken seriously. The only idea the engineers had to make the product more female-friendly was to produce a pink version.
Other complaints include claims that developers created a misogynistic game for the headset that features just one female character,“a busty woman depicted on her knees groveling at the heroes’ feet in admiration.”
The “macho bullying” culture allegedly caused missed deadlines and delays in the headset’s development, including the launch, while Abovitz is described as “pouty and prone to temper-tantrums.”
Campbell is asking for punitive damages from Magic Leap.