Over the last year, Black customers and employees began sharing their experiences with discomfort they felt in the pastel-laden women-oriented coworking community the Wing.
In March, The New York Times published an article that described what employees referred to as a “toxic culture” at the Wing. This included complaints about pay, scheduling and managers’ failure to properly handle racist incidents.
After the pandemic forced the company to close its offices, followed closely by the murder of George Floyd that led to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the future of the company began to look murky.
In June, Gelman stepped down as CEO, stating she spent time valuing “growth over culture at the expense of women of color feeling empowered.”
“There are very few women leaders who rise to the level where they get press and attention, and at some point, they’re all disappearing,” said Sara Mauskopf, the cofounder and CEO of childcare platform Winnie. “What the heck is going on? And why is this only happening to women?”
The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. In fact, according to a report from data firm PitchBook, VC funding for women-founded companies fell to $434 million in October, its lowest level in three years.
While male leaders are often seen as assertive, strong and decisive, often graced with more leniency when accused of sexist or racist behavior, women have less room for error.
The transparency that is coming to light about companies’ problematic culture is crucial to making real social change, but when will male business leaders be held to the same standards?