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Refinery29 Editor Resigns After Former Employees Speak Out on Racism

Christene Barberich Photo: Aurora Rose/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

After many former staff members came forward about the racism they experienced working at Refinery29, editor-in-chief Christene Barberich has resigned. Barberich was one of the founders of the women’s website, which was recently sold to Vice. “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,” Barberich wrote on Instagram, with a white image that simply read “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.”

Former black employees began sharing their stories after Refinery29 blacked out its home page on June 2 in support of Blackout Tuesday. “Cool blacked out homepage!” Ashley Alese Edwards tweeted. “But you know what real allyship looks like? Paying your Black employees fairly, having Black women in top leadership positions & addressing the microagressions your Black employees deal with from management on a daily basis.” Former writers and editors used the hashtag #BlackAtR29 to tweet about pay gaps, a lack of opportunities for advancement, critical management, and overall tokenization at the company. One former employee, Channing Hargrove, tweeted about being fired last December after she heard in September that “a case was being ‘built against me’ by one of the editorial executives.”

Refinery29 first responded to the experiences shared by former employees in a June 5 statement. “We are, and have always been, a company and a brand that seeks to hold ourselves accountable as we elevate underrepresented voices,” the company wrote, according to WWD. “And we recognize that commitment starts within our own walls. These changes will require a comprehensive look and assessment of ourselves, and we are committed to doing that work.” The employee union tweeted that Refinery29’s statement “does nothing to get to the heart of the problem,” calling for “drastic and immediate action.” After Barberich announced her resignation, the union tweeted, “We are in support of this decision, which will involve a ‘fully inclusive hiring process,’” adding in a later tweet, “However, there are many changes left to be made at the company to account for the aggressions that our past and current employees have faced.”

Refinery29 Editor Resigns After Former Staff Reveals Racism