Christene Barberich, the cofounder and global editor in chief of Refinery29, is stepping down, its parent company Vice Media told staffers today. The move comes just days after a number of women of color, who previously worked at the feminist lifestyle site, took to Twitter to share their negative experiences of working at the company, which Vice acquired last year for a reported $400 million.
In a staff memo Monday, Vice chief executive officer Nancy Dubuc said the two began discussing Barberich’s departure shortly after the acquisition, but events over the past few days sped up the process.
“[Barberich] asked that we make the change immediately over the past few days,” she said.
In a statement posted to her Instagram, Barberich, who will remain at the company during the transition, said: “I’d like to start by saying that I’ve read and taken in the raw and personal accounts of black women and women of color regarding their experiences inside our company at Refinery29. And, what’s clear from these experiences is that R29 has to change. We have to do better, and that starts with making room. And so I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter.”
As for her successor, Dubuc stressed that the search will be an inclusive hiring process with a diverse slate of candidates.
She also revealed that Vice will release a handful of leadership positions at Refinery29 from the hiring freeze, for recruitment with a clear focus on bringing in more diversity to the organization and “will hold hiring managers accountable to an inclusive process in these recruiting efforts as well.”
The Refinery29 Union said it supports the decision for Barberich to step down, but added that there are still many changes left to be made at the company to “account for the aggressions that our past and current employees have faced.”
Former deputy director of news and politics Ashley Alese Edwards began the Twitter thread last week by writing: “You know what real ally-ship looks like? Paying your black employees fairly, having black women in top leadership positions and addressing the microaggressions your black employees deal with from management on a daily basis.”
Soon others contributed their own accounts. They included Ashley C. Ford. She posted that during her near-nine months as senior features writer at Refinery29, there was a “toxic company culture where white women’s egos ruled the near nonexistent editorial processes” and one of the founders consistently confused her and another employee. On top of this, “pay disparity was atrocious.”
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