Twitter is latest tech firm sued for sex discrimination

5 Stunning stats about Twitter
5 Stunning stats about Twitter

The battle for gender equality in Silicon Valley may just be getting started.

Twitter is the latest company to get hit with a gender discrimination suit. Tina Huang, a former software engineer at the tech firm, filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the company for not promoting female engineers, like herself, to leadership positions.

This comes on the heels of two other high-profile lawsuits: one filed by interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao against former employer Kleiner Perkins (currently on trial) and one filed against Facebook last week.

The complaint, filed Thursday in a California state court in San Francisco, claims Twitter (TWTR) has a "subjective, secretive promotion process" that "encouraged arbitrary and stereotyped decision making." Huang says it ultimately kept her from moving up to a senior staff role.

Huang, who is now chief technology officer at startup Wine Savage, alleges that Twitter had a "glass ceiling" that prevented her and other women from being promoted.

The complaint details that when Huang sent an e-mail to CEO Dick Costolo concerning the firm's promotion policies after she was denied a promotion, she was put on leave and taken off assignments. She ultimately resigned in May 2014.

According to a Twitter spokesperson, Twitter leadership tried to persuade her to stay.

"Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms. Huang was treated fairly," said the spokesperson in an email to CNNMoney.

Her complaint says there are at least 50 other women who were similarly affected by Twitter's policies.

According to Joelle Emerson, founder of San Francisco-based diversity consulting firm Paradigm, this case could have an impact far beyond the walls of Twitter.

"It alleges that company-wide, structural processes resulted in gender discrimination, rather than simply alleging one discriminatory boss or coworker," said Emerson.

Informal promotion structures are common -- in tech and other industries.

In the complaint, Huang makes suggestions for Twitter to improve its processes, including the creation of a "transparent and non-discriminatory job posting and application process" for senior staff engineers. She alleges there are no formal processes or "written procedures" in place to receive a promotion -- but rather consensus among three senior-level executives.

These executives are predominately male, as evidenced in Twitter's diversity statistics. Twitter released its diversity data last summer. Only 1 in 10 of its employees in tech roles are women. 79 percent of its management team is male -- and 72% is white.

Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), and Yahoo (YHOO) also released similar reports this year with similar findings: between 60% and 70% of the workforce at those companies are male, and more than half are white.

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