Magic Leap hit with gender discrimination lawsuit

Magic Leap has a large campus in Plantation as well as offices in Dania Beach.
Magic Leap has a large campus in Plantation as well as offices in Dania Beach. Miami Herald File

A former Magic Leap executive asked to help make the South Florida technology company less of a “boy’s club” has sued, alleging gender discrimination.

Tannen Campbell, former vice president of strategic marketing who was fired in December, said Magic Leap fostered a corporate culture of “macho bullying” and that CEO Rony Abovitz ignored her requests to discuss her report about a gender diversity problem at the company.

“Campbell, one of whose responsibilities was to help Magic Leap with the ‘pink/blue problem,’ had to endure [a] hostile environment of sex discrimination while proposing ways, not only to make Magic Leap’s product more woman friendly, but also to make the workplace more diverse and inclusive,” states the lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale. Magic Leap, believed to have about 1,000 employees, is headquartered in Plantation and Dania Beach but has a large workforce in Silicon Valley and satellite offices in a number of other cities around the world.

The lawsuit claims only 3 percent of Magic Leap’s engineers were women.

The gender gap is a problem across the tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley. “All the engineers and others in predominately-male Magic Leap could conceive of to make the product female-friendly was to produce a version in pink,” the lawsuit said. Women are “ridiculed openly and their opinions ignored in favor of those of their male counterparts,” the lawsuit stated, citing several examples, including an internal email describing an activity program for “bored wives at home while you are loving it at the Leap.” Magic Leap did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit adds to a spate of negative tech press and abrupt management changes that has dogged the company in recent months.

The secretive venture-backed company, which has raised nearly $1.4 billion from high-profile investors such as Google and China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, is developing “mixed reality” technology, combining the real and virtual worlds. It is believed to be trying to finish development on its first product, headgear or glasses, and reportedly has run into obstacles miniaturizing the technology and is behind schedule. Abovitz’ recent response:

Campbell is seeking unspecified damages, back pay and reinstatement to her job.