Audrey Gelman, CEO and founder of The Wing, stepped down from her post as employees staged a digital walkout from the company, saying it “doesn’t practice the intersectional feminism it preaches.”
Dozens of employees at the women’s social co-working space tweeted a statement Thursday after news broke that Gelman, who launched The Wing in 2016 with Lauren Kassan, was resigning.
Tech reporter Kara Swisher tweeted a screenshot of the resignation email from Gelman that indicated she’d be replaced by a “newly formed Office of the CEO that will include Celestine, Ashley & Lauren,” referring to Celestine Maddy, Ashley Peterson and Lauren Kassan. Gelman also wrote that this was an “interim solution.”
A spokeswoman for The Wing confirmed Swisher’s tweet. “The past three months have brought change to our society, our culture, our business and our team in ways no one could have imagined,” the spokeswoman said in an email to HuffPost. “The Wing remains a vital resource for thousands of women navigating their path to success. But the moment calls for a rethinking of how we meet their needs moving forward and for new leadership that can guide The Wing into the future.”
Gelman’s resignation will help the company “create a sustainable business, and achieve the bold vision of advancing all women through community,” the statement added.
Several employees shared a statement about the company’s practices, saying “Audrey Gelman’s resignation is not enough @thewing.” Workers “made a list of demands in order to correct” the brand’s not practicing intersectional feminism.
“Today we’re participating in a digital walkout in solidarity with the people without whom The Wing would not exist ― particularly our Black and brown coworkers,” the statement said.
The Wing’s organizing employees said in a statement to HuffPost that they “have been told over and over by our leadership that we’re a mission-driven company, even as the company’s actions consistently prove otherwise.”
The statement added: “In solidarity with so many of our colleagues — past, present, and in particular, the Black and brown people without whom The Wing would not exist —as a united group of employees, we are participating in a virtual walkout beginning today, Thursday, June 11, 2020.”
The employees said they are “frustrated and saddened by the incompetence and lack of accountability” demonstrated by The Wing’s leadership, adding that “without transparency and clear growth paths for employees,” leadership decisions have “disproportionately failed and continue to fail people of color at The Wing.”
“A quick look at our social media reveals several detailed accounts from former space team members, most of whom are Black and brown people, about the abuse they endured in our spaces and the lack of support they received from The Wing’s leadership. The public perception of The Wing is at an all-time low — and rightfully so,” they said.
The employees did not share the details of their demands, but they said that they have asked for the board to meet to consider them and “several commitments to long term changes once new leadership is instated.”
The employees said that “93% of our current full-time employees — 67 out of 72 people — have signed the petition in support of our demands.”
The statement concluded: “We look forward to working together to rebuild The Wing and create a company, culture, and community that’s equitable, profitable, and representative of the values and causes we claim to uplift.”
The New York Times interviewed 26 former Wing employees earlier this year and documented how women of color were tokenized while workers hired to work the front desk were also told to clean — and to do so out of view of the members so as not to disrupt the environment.
Former front desk employee Vei Darling told the Times that she believed she was hired “only so that they could exploit my presence and my image for their own purposes to make it seem like they were more inclusive than they actually were.”
The Times also reported that employees might “find themselves to be the only black women in the room” and that members and their guests “could be casually racist.”
Vox reported in 2019 that the company’s “several hundred dollars a month for membership” put it “out of reach of the very women who could use them most, especially women of color and low-income women.”
Vox said the company co-opted “the language and iconography of feminism to make money.”
Writer Daisy Alioto told Study Hall in 2018 that Gelman is less of a “pioneer for feminism” and more of “an opportunist.”
The Wing did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the employee walkout.