The Wing cofounder Audrey Gelman in a public apology said that her drive to be a ‘feminist success’ led her to ignore workplace harassment and racism

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CEO of The Wing, Audrey Gelman speaks onstage at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit 2018. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
  • Audrey Gelman, The Wing cofounder and former CEO, just publicly apologised to Black and women of colour employees for failing to protect them from harm they have said they experienced on the job.
  • Gelman addressed her apology to Flew the Coup, a group of former The Wing employees who said they experienced racist and anti-LGBTQIA harm and discrimination at the firm.
  • Gelman stepped down as CEO in June after employees staged a digital walkout.
  • The former CEO said her race to scale her startup and become personally successful was also why she ignored employee complaints.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Wing founder and former CEO Audrey Gelman just apologised for helping to create an unwelcoming work environment for Black women and women of colour.

Gelman on Wednesday posted a screenshot on Instagram of an apology email she sent to Flew the Coup, a group of former The Wing employees and members who said they experienced racist and anti-LGBTQIA harm and discrimination at the women’s coworking space. In her note, Gelman said her own choices — including racing to scale the company and failing to decide on an “achievable mission” — led to her failing to protect employees, who have said they experienced harm.

“I am deeply sorry for my inaction, and for not having the foresight to understand how far we had strayed from what I sought to build and the original vision for The Wing,” Gelman said.

Gelman stepped down as CEO in June after employees staged a digital walkout, criticising the company for failing to “practice the intersectional feminism that it preaches.” Flew the Coup has posted quotes from anonymous workers, who say they were laughed at when asking for a raise, misgendered by management, and bullied by members.

The company has faced additional setbacks including a lawsuit for failing to pay rent, taxes, electricity, and tax fees on its Manhattan lease, and has laid off half of its headquarters in April employees after seeing “95% of revenue disappear overnight.”

“Audrey Gelman resigned as The Wing’s CEO in June and has since left the board of directors,” The Wing told Business Insider in a statement. “We are encouraged to hear of Audrey’s time of reflection and growth.”

Gelman listed several decisions she made as CEO that led to the toxic workplace former employees described.

Gelman said her desire to scale the company quickly led to a toxic workplace where employees did not feel valued and respected. Her desire to be seen as a public “feminist success” story led her to quickly fix mistakes and ignore day-to-day employee difficulties.

The cofounder also said The Wing members, who she said were often white and wealthy enough to afford membership dues, had harmed and mistreated women of colour staffers. But because Gelman prioritised the needs of members, she did not remove harmful members or “sincerely validate” concerns from women of colour.

Finally, Gelman acknowledged that she also failed because she had several visions of The Wing’s main purpose — a tech startup, a coworking “oasis,” and an activist nonprofit — that kept her from deciding on an “achieveable mission and a unified expectation.”

Gelman said workers “experienced the same indignities you’d expect at a restaurant, cafe or country club in their day-t0-day work.”

“Ultimately the prioritisation of growth over culture came at the expense of women of colour feeling empowered,” Gelman said in her email the Flew the Coup. “Inclusion was an elective, not the main curriculum.”

Gelman and The Wing did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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