Condé Nast is standing firmly behind its most high-profile employee despite internal and external calls for her resignation over the ongoing diversity scandal roiling the company.
The legacy magazine company, which publishes GQ, the New Yorker, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, among others, has been shaken by reports and testimonials from current and former staff about the organization’s lack of diversity, along with insensitive comments and discriminatory practices by top managers.
Earlier this week, Vogue editor and Condé Nast’s artistic director Anna Wintour acknowledged in a note to staff that “it can’t be easy to be a Black employee at Vogue,’’ saying that the fashion magazine had not “found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators.”
Still, Wintour’s apology did not satisfy some critics, who said she allowed a culture to fester that did not value diversity and elevated problematic leaders. And over the past day, rumors of her imminent departure swirled in media circles, despite insistence from Condé that Wintour is staying put.
During an all-staff call on Friday, staff up-voted questions about her status at the company, making it at one point the top question submitted.
“There is no truth to that,” CEO Roger Lynch said with a chuckle.
Still, despite her absence on the call, Wintour loomed large in the minds of Condé employees, and questions about her status dominated the meeting. According to multiple people who attended the call, several of the most popular questions submitted by staff pertained to her status at the company, her apology note, and her role in furthering diversity at the publisher.
Despite years-long jokes among staff about Wintour’s role on a company diversity committee, Lynch also said on Friday’s call that the Vogue editor would remain part of that group.
“I think she can be an incredibly positive force for change,” Lynch said. “Like I said earlier, many of us can look back at our history and think of things we should’ve done differently. The real question is, are you in a position to contribute and make change now? I think there are very few people in the world who can have the influence to change the culture… than Anna.”
Despite her absence, Condé higher-ups insisted on Friday’s call that Wintour would possibly participate in an upcoming staff town-hall meeting.
Over the past week, the legacy magazine publisher has seen the departures of several top executives amid accusations of misconduct, as well as the resurfacing of troubling past social-media posts. Bon Appétit’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned earlier this week after a 2013 photograph emerged of him and his wife dressed up as stereotypical Puerto Ricans, and several days later staffers at the food publication went on-record with complaints about his conduct in a lengthy Business Insider tell-all. Top video head Matt Duckor also resigned after current and former employees resurfaced old comments he made comments about Asians and gay people. As first reported by The Daily Beast, irate staffers also began circulating old jokes about Mexicans and women from Oren Katzeff, the head of Condé Nast Entertainment.
While he did not address Katzeff personally during Friday’s call, the CEO said his comments “hurt people today, they affect people today.” Still, he defended his decision to keep him on staff.
“Every single one of us on this call has said something that you’re ashamed of,” he said. “The real question is: Have you learned from them? Have you taken ownership from it? And clearly: How serious was it?”
Over the past several days, amid a nationwide reckoning on racial inequality, company higher-ups including Lynch have held multiple staff town halls to address some of the company’s systems for handling workplace issues, which he described as currently “not adequate.” During a call on Tuesday, Lynch said Condé will scrutinize its internal company makeup by "accelerating our first ever diversity and inclusion report to be published later this summer.”
He also asked staff to use internal company channels to resolve issues, rather than staying silent or airing them in public.
“I urge you: take advantage of the internal channels to express these concerns or share these ideas so we can work together to avoid these issues,” he said. “I think if people had used the internal channels and raised concerns about this earlier on, we would’ve been able to address them. But we can only solve problems if we talk about our problems.”