Away employees are calling on founder and co-CEO Steph Korey to resign immediately after a photo of her dressed as an Indian surfaced on Twitter last Friday.
In an anonymous letter to Korey co-founder Jen Rubio, and her co-CEO Stuart Haselden, employees wrote, “How often will we be disturbed by this woman who clearly has poor judgment? We all have financial interests in this company and that puts them at risk for all of us. She turns Away into an embarrassment. We can no longer be complicit. Steph Korey has to go. ‘
It is the second anonymous letter that Away executives have received in recent weeks. The first came after Korey posted a series of Instagram stories that attacked the media on how it covers female founders. In response to employee concerns, Rubio and Haselden said Korey would step down as co-CEO in 2020. But after the photo surfaced, employees demanded that it happen immediately and that Korey would no longer be the public face of the company.
On Monday, Korey met with a group of executives to address workers’ concerns. She admitted she was ashamed of the photo and understood that she had lost confidence with her staff. But she also said she wouldn’t step down. “All I want to do is make this company successful and help support our people, and I don’t think I’m doing this business or our people a favor by throwing in the towel,” she said in an audio recording of the meeting assessed by The edge.
Alexis Pagis, Away’s vice president of brand marketing, stressed to Korey that the situation was more than just a photo. “You are talking about maybe losing confidence. But I feel, and it’s what I’ve heard from the teams, that maybe the confidence was not lost last week, but maybe back in January when you decided to come back, ”he said. “I have a feeling that what happened last week was just a competition under something bigger.”
The January incident Pagis referred to came after two investigations The edge true employees expressed concern about Korey’s management style. Korey apologized and quit shortly after these investigations, then announced she was posting in an article The New York Times – a decision that dazzled its own staff and many members of the executive team. She has since also deleted her apologies on Twitter.
Brendan Lewis, Away’s vice president of communications and business affairs, said the move did not suit employees. “I think another elephant in the room here is why you removed your first apology,” he said at the executive meeting. “I hear feedback that that apology goes up and is quietly removed at a later date, calling into question any subsequent apology. Direct feedback from my team, and I share this feeling, is that our jobs are now infinitely more difficult as a result of the past week. You may be addressing a very important topic, media bias against female founders. But inherently, the words you have chosen, the actions you have taken, make it more difficult for us to talk about the company in a way that helps the company move forward. ”
Korey’s plan to regain employee confidence, which she shared with the other executives, includes a personal conversation with people to talk about how she can be a better leader. She also said she would sit down with members of Away’s employee groups to hear about their priorities.
A member of the leadership team who spoke The edge anonymously, fearing professional retribution, he doubted whether this strategy would be successful. Steph has created a culture of fear. The fact that she thinks and listens and listens to virtual coffee will create an environment in which junior members of the team will voice their vote is crazy and she knows it. This in turn will help her not justify a direct action plan, as she will be able to say, “I met employees and everyone had the opportunity to share their thoughts.” ”
Korey and other members of the executive team would speak directly to the company at a staff meeting on Tuesday morning. Now that meeting has been moved to Friday.