Essence magazine has appointed Caroline Wanga as its new CEO two days after an essay stating leadership of the company has allowed abuse of power against Black female employees was published, reports The Grio.
The article, published on Medium by the collective Black Female Anonymous, called for the resignation of owner Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Essence Ventures, as well as the departure of other C-suite executives within five business days.
Black Female Anonymous said the magazine is “the most deceptive Black media company in America” because of its monetization of Black Girl Magic and lack of application of the concept in the workplace.
“The once exalted media brand dedicated to Black women has been hijacked by cultural and corporate greed and an unhinged abuse of power,” the article stated. “The company’s longstanding pattern of gross mistreatment and abuse of its Black female employees is the biggest open secret in the media business.”
The collective said Black female employees are affected by pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, classism, colorism and intimidation. The collective said Dennis, who acquired Essence in 2018 from Time Inc., has a “surface-level commitment to Black women" and is “driven by greed and a debaucherous sexual appetite.”
The group also called for companies, including Coca Cola, Walmart and Ford, to halt sponsorships until the magazine is under new leadership. They also highlighted a conflict of interest, as Dennis' wife, Martha, is the company’s head of human resources.
On Monday, Essence released a statement, saying Black Female Anonymous’ accusations are a gross misrepresentation of the truth.
“The allegations and mischaracterizations throughout – whether of pay inequity, intimidation, and otherwise – are unfounded attempts to discredit our brand and assassinate personal character,” the publication said.
On Tuesday, Essence released a second statement, confirming Dennis' resignation, whose purchase of the publication made Essence 100% Black-owned. The announcement also stated that Wanga, who was recently hired as chief growth officer, will be serving as interim CEO. An external review of business practices will also be conducted.
“Out of an abundance of caution and an unwavering commitment to transparency, ESSENCE is in the process of hiring law firms and other independent external experts to assess and review the company’s policies and practices and conduct comprehensive employee interviews as well as independently review any harassment, discrimination, retaliation or other behaviors or issues that may adversely impact workplace culture,” the statement read.
Black Female Anonymous accepted the resignation and addressed Wanga with demands moving forward, including an outline of a comprehensive action plan stating how the company will create a safer and more equitable work environment for Black women.
The collective also asked that Dennis have no involvement with the company, and asked Wanga to remove Chief Operating Officer Joy Collins Profet, Chief Content Officer Moana Luu and Michelle Ebanks, an Essence Ventures board member.
A petition demanding the resignation of the four executives currently has over 1,600 signatures.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Richelieu Dennis had the title of CEO. He is the owner and has no role within the company.