“What happens after a company gets called out?” he asked over the phone. “Do you know what happens to the people in-house that come forward?”
A Black male engineer at a fashion tech company who wished to remain anonymous was telling me how he’d been passed over for promotions white counterparts later received after they’d pursued risky and unsuccessful projects. At one point, he said management tasked him with doing recon on a superior who made disparaging comments about women because his subordinates were uncomfortable reporting it directly to HR.
When human resources eventually took up the matter, the engineer said his participation was used against him.
More recently, his company brought furloughed employees back and managers promoted a younger, white subordinate over him. When he asked about the move, his direct supervisor said he was too aggressive and needed to be more of a role model to be considered in the future.
In the absence of industry leadership, there’s no blueprint to remedy institutional problems like these. The lack of substantial progress toward true representation, diversity and inclusion across several industries illustrates what hasn’t worked.
Audrey Gelman, former CEO of women-focused co-working/community space The Wing, stepped down in June following a virtual employee walkout. Three months earlier, a New York Times exposé interviewed 26 former and current employees there who described systemic discrimination and mistreatment. At the time, about 40% of its executive staff consisted of women of color, the article reported.
Within days, Refinery29’s EIC Christene Barberich also resigned after allegations of racism, bullying and leadership abuses surfaced with hashtag #BlackatR29.
In December 2019, The Verge reported allegations of a toxic work environment at Away under CEO Steph Korey. After a series of updates and corrections in reporting, it seemed she would be stepping away from her role or accelerating an existing plan for a new CEO to take over. But the following month, she returned to the company as co-CEO, sharing the statement: “Frankly, we let some inaccurate reporting influence the timeline of a transition plan that we had.”
Last month, after Korey posted a series of Instagram stories that negatively characterized her media coverage, the company again announced she would step down.
Bon Appétit former editor-in-chief Adam Rapaport resigned his position the same month after news broke that the cooking brand didn’t prioritize representation in its content or hiring, failed to pay women of color equally and freelance writer Tammie Teclemariam shared a 2013 photo of Rappaport in brown face.
In a public apology, staffs of Bon Appétit and Epicurious acknowledged that they had “been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change.”
Removing one problematic employee doesn’t upend company culture or help someone who’s been denied an opportunity. But with so much at stake when it comes to employing Instagram-ready branding, the lane is wide open for companies to meet the moment when it comes to doing the right thing…Read more>>