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White female founders face pressure over racism

June 9, 2020, 12:53 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Coronavirus disrupted the world’s sexual health supply chain, Stitch Fix has a new growth strategy, and white female founders reckon with racism. Have a thoughtful Tuesday. 

– Reformation, Refinery29, and racism. As companies posted their support for the Black Lives Matter movement over the past two weeks, Instagram comment sections quickly filled up with allegations of hypocrisy from former employees and stories of racist behavior by those same company leaders now espousing their support.

One of the highest-profile reckonings came at Reformation, the eco-conscious women’s clothing brand founded by CEO Yael Aflalo. After being accused of racism by a former employee, Aflalo acknowledged that she had “failed” in “treating people equally…especially the black community.” (Aflalo is still CEO but took what the company calls a “step back” from the role in 2018.)

A similar incident played out at the stationery brand Ban.do, founded by Jen Gotch. Also accused of racism, Gotch admitted that she was “guilty” of “creating and helping to propagate a racist company culture.” She resigned as chief creative officer.

And at the women’s news and lifestyle site Refinery29, former employees wrote on Twitter about their experiences there with racism and discrimination; cofounder Christene Barberich stepped down as editor-in-chief Monday morning. Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc announced that the company would commit to an “inclusive hiring process with a diverse slate of candidates” for the next editor of the site it acquired in 2019.

All three of these companies have participated in—and benefitted from—the language and branding of equality and feminism, from Refinery29’s coverage to Ban.do’s empowerment-themed notebooks. That record made wrongdoing and hypocrisy on racism even more apparent—and frustrating to past employees.

The world is experiencing an unprecedented social movement, where white leaders are facing consequences for racist behavior en masse for the first time; in a way, it’s reminiscent of the early days of the #MeToo movement, when the dominoes fell fast and furiously. Other companies have been confronted with similar pressures; these three are just among the first to acknowledge them.

Read the rest of my story about the white female founders facing a reckoning over racism here.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Too late to apologize? The U.S. Women's National Team is asking U.S. Soccer to apologize to black players for banning athletes from kneeling during the national anthem. U.S. Soccer created the policy after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick's protest against police brutality in 2016. BuzzFeed

- Fix this. Stitch Fix, led by CEO Katrina Lake, has a new growth strategy: letting non-subscribers shop through its platform. Stitch Fix president Elizabeth Spaulding tells Fortune's Phil Wahba that the plan is part of "a future for Stitch Fix ... where many clients may want to join for the ‘fix’ experience and then shop, and where others may want to start with the shopping experience without beginning with a fix." Fortune

- DNA results. 23AndMe, the genetic testing company led by CEO Anne Wojcicki, studied how a person's blood type can affect their reaction to contracting COVID-19. The study's preliminary results suggest that type-O blood is especially resistant to the virus. Bloomberg

- Supply chain crisis. The coronavirus crisis has disrupted the world's sexual health supply chain. Women in developing countries are struggling to access condoms and other forms of birth control. The Atlantic

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- NOW this. An investigation by The Daily Beast unearthed allegations of racism within the National Organization for Women. Women of color report being heckled, disparaged, and silenced at NOW meetings and in the organization's office. Nine board members are now calling on NOW president Toni Van Pelt to resign. The Daily Beast

- Tech vs. Trump. Ivanka Trump was scheduled to give a commencement address at Wichita State University Tech. The school pulled the recorded speech because of the Trump administration's response to nationwide protests over racism and police brutality. Trump then released the speech online herself, blaming WSU Tech's decision on "cancel culture." New York Times

- Gaga, ooh la la. Lady Gaga's Chromatica has landed her with the biggest release for a female artist so far in 2020. The record is Gaga's sixth No. 1 album and a return to dance-pop stardom. New York Times

ON MY RADAR

Democrats’ sweeping new police reform bill, explained Vox

A feminist history of bike-riding LitHub

New Zealand says it’s eliminated all coronavirus cases and is resuming normal life Fortune

U.S. demands Britain hand over Prince Andrew to be quizzed over Epstein link CNN

PARTING WORDS

"For those of you who feel invisible: Please know that your story matters."

-Former First Lady Michelle Obama in her commencement address to the class of 2020