September 4, 2019
As it heads toward its public offering, coworking space startup WeWork has announced that a woman is joining the company's previously all-male board.
The company took heat after its S-1 filing last month revealed a board entirely comprised of men. "This is something that really should have been in place already," John Jannarone, the editor of IPO Edge, told Cheddar. "Right down to preventing accounting errors, it's better to have a diverse board."
Now WeWork's newest board member is Frances Frei, a technology and operations management professor at Harvard Business School, according to the university's website. She previously held a leadership position at Uber and was also a senior adviser at Riot Games.
Frei's addition comes as major companies face increasing pressure to include women in upper leadership. For instance, a Bloomberg report noted a study which found that half of 100 IPOs between 2014 and 2017 went forward without any female directors.
Jannarone said that WeWork's move appears to be a reaction to criticisms of the company's all-male board. He added that other large companies had included women before going public, saying: "Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Peloton. They all knew this was a good idea and no one had to force them into it."
WeWork declined Cheddar's request for comment on Frei's appointment.
Her addition, however, was noted in an amended SEC filing. "Frances brings to our board of directors extensive experience researching and advising on corporate strategy, operations and culture, which our board of directors believes gives her particular insight into strategic planning and leadership," the company wrote.
In the filing, WeWork also committed to "add[ing] an additional director to our board of directors, with a commitment to increasing the board's gender and ethnic diversity."
"Think about what percentage of these companies' customers are female," said Jannarone. "To have all-men [on the board] these days, it's behind the times."
"Is this going to completely shore up their governance? No, but it was the right thing to do," Jannarone, pointing to skepticism that WeWork has faced over the vast control wielded by its CEO, Adam Neumann.
To that end, the filing also reported that Neumann would return nearly $6 million that the company previously paid him for the trademark: "We."