Cybersleuth Firm's Officer Sues Microsoft Claiming Gender Bias

  • White hat officer of HackerOne sees pay, promotion disparity
  • Federal suit follows similar claims against Twitter, Facebook

Microsoft Corp. was sued by a former employee who claims females in technical and engineering roles at the software maker are discriminated against in performance evaluations, pay and promotions.

The complaint filed Wednesday in Seattle federal court follows similar suits this year in California against Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. Katie Moussouris, a “white hat” cybersleuth and veteran of Symantec Corp., worked at Microsoft for seven years before becoming chief policy officer at HackerOne Inc. She seeks class action status for her case.

Moussouris contends Microsoft’s evaluation process, called stack ranking, “undervalued female technical employees compared to similarly situated male employees” and resulted in women being paid less and promoted less frequently “regardless of their actual contributions.”

While at the company, she instituted its security bounty programs, which gave prize money to researchers for finding security flaws, and oversaw public outreach on vulnerabilities, according to her LinkedIn page. Those activities, as well as numerous speeches at security conferences, have made her a well-known figure in the computer security field.

Senior Officials

Only about 13 percent of Microsoft’s 144 senior officials and managers are women, according to its 2014 Employment Information Report. About 20 percent of its mid-level managers and 22 percent of its professionals are female.

“We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed,” Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said in a statement. “We’ve previously reviewed the plaintiff’s allegations about her specific experience and did not find anything to substantiate those claims, and we will carefully review this new complaint.”

The two law firms that filed the case, San Francisco-based Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP New York-based Outten & Golden LLP, are also the lead counsel in an ongoing gender discrimination case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The case is Moussouris v. Microsoft Corp., 2:15-cv-01483, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).

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