Marketing VP sues VR startup Magic Leap for gender discrimination

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Tech professionals were warned to stay away from "the Three Os: Orientals, Old People and Ovaries," alleges the suit.

A former marketing executive at Magic Leap, who says she was hired to help the tech company become more female-friendly, has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the firm.

On Monday, Tannen Campbell, a former Razorfish creative director who joined Magic Leap in 2015 as head of strategic marketing and brand identity, filed a complaint against the Plantation, Fla.-based startup that alleges she experienced a hostile environment, sex discrimination and retaliation.   

In the lawsuit filed in the Southern Florida District Court, Campbell claims Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz recruited her to help with the company’s "pink/blue problem," the term the company used to define its marketing problem. "The company is a large group of men designing a device for men that doesn’t appeal to women," said the court document. When challenged to come up with a VR headset that would appeal to women, engineers suggested making it pink. 

Campbell alleges the company’s leadership unjustly fired her and ignored her attempts to make Magic Leap more female friendly. Her efforts included a 50-page report that highlighted gender diversity statistics in the tech industry and Magic Leap as well as proposed solutions to improve diversity in the workplace.

The suit cites other examples of a gender discrimination, including an employee’s suggestion that the company start a social club for bored wives, while their husbands work, and an instance when an IT support lead told employees in new hire orientation, "In IT, we have a saying: Stay away from the Three Os: Orientals, Old People and Ovaries." The executive is still working at the company, according to the court document.

The lawsuit also asserts that the "macho bullying atmosphere" pushed back key product deadlines at least four times in 18 months. Last week, Business Insider reported that the Magic Leap engineering team was still "scrambling" to produce a working prototype of virtual reality glasses called PEQ.

Additionally, Campbell claims that the $4.5 billion company is losing to competitors like Microsoft Hololens because it "seldom hires and does not actively recruit female candidates," whereas "Microsoft, which employs far more females on its team, developed its similar product on a faster time line with more content that appeals to both genders."

Magic Leap has yet to publicly comment on Campbell’s complaint.

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