Audrey Gelman — who resigned as CEO of women-only club the Wing in June amid accusations that the feminist networking space treated black and brown employees poorly — has put out a public apology to a group of former staffers, called Flew the Coop, admitting the organization was “continuing to inflict” the problems it sought to solve.
Gelman writes in the letter, posted on Instagram, “Many felt they were sold a false vision and lost trust in us.” She acknowledges, “Members’ needs came first, and those members were often white and affluent enough to afford the Wing’s membership dues … This came at the expense of employees, who experienced mistreatment and harm from members, and who felt unprotected by management and ultimately unprotected by me … We billed ourselves as an answer to a problem while failing to recognize that we were continuing to inflict it.”
Gelman, a Vogue fixture, founded the upscale New York club with Lauren Kassan in 2016. It saw speakers such as Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand and Marianne Williamson, expanded to locations in Los Angeles and London and launched its own magazine, No Man’s Land. Gelman and Kassan raised more than $100 million from investors including Mindy Kaling, Valerie Jarrett and Megan Rapinoe.
But in March, a number of employees came forward about unfair treatment, poor pay and alleged racist incidents in a New York Times piece titled “The Wing Is a Women’s Utopia. Unless You Work There.” One worker said, “I’ve been made to feel small, insignificant, stupid.”
Gelman — who was replaced as CEO by COO Kassan and senior VPs Celestine Maddy and Ashley Peterson — concedes in her letter, “I sought to gain personal financial success, stature, and the self-worth associated with scaling a start-up so fast and so well … Unfortunately, this came at the expense of a sustainable and healthy culture.” She also stepped down from the board.
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