Mailchimp CEO says 'we have work to do' on pay equity after company denies bias allegations

Mailchimp CEO says 'we have work to do' on pay equity after company denies bias allegations
MailChimp CEO Ben Chestnut.Kimberly White/Getty Images
  • Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut said the company has "work to do" on pay equity.
  • Chestnut's email to employees followed a Thursday email claiming a pay equity study found no bias.
  • The emails came in response to claims of "sexism and bullying" by Kelly Ellis, who quit Wednesday.

Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut responded on Friday to allegations of gender discrimination and harassment at the company, telling employees in an email that "we have work to do" on pay equity and inclusion.

Chestnut's email, which was seen by Insider, appeared to contradict internal messaging the company had sent just a day earlier.

Mailchimp chief people and culture officer Robin White told employees in an email Thursday the company has made its hiring, promotion, and pay processes more equitable over the years.
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He also said an independent pay equity study "found that gender and race/ethnicity are not statistically significant indicators of differences in pay, and that differences in pay can be attributed to those factors we've established within our compensation system that are fair and reasonable."

But Chestnut's email on Friday appeared to show the issues are more extensive than White's initial email acknowledged.

Both messages came in response to the resignation of principal software engineer Kelly Ellis, who accused the company of "sexism and bullying" and gender pay discrimination when she quit on Wednesday.
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"The fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don't want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them," Chestnut said.

"I'm also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you're experiencing, and we haven't made enough progress in response," he added. "Because a sensitive situation was shared on social media, we felt it was important to talk directly with employees to make sure they know Mailchimp does not tolerate any type of mistreatment, including discrimination, bullying, or harassment," a Mailchimp spokesperson told Insider in a statement. "We want to combine what is an important conversation with action steps."
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However, while Chestnut's email encouraged employees to offer feedback through various channels, it offered no concrete steps beyond promising "regular updates."

Are you a current or former Mailchimp employee with insight to share? We'd love to hear about your experiences there. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 503-319-3213), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the full email Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut sent to employees:

Subject: Hearing your concerns
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Hi everyone, I'm following up on Robin's email from yesterday because I know this has been hard for many of you, and I want you to know that I'm listening. I won't share the confidential details or get into a back and forth about the specific situation that came up this week, but the fact of the matter is that it has led to some difficult conversations and brought up some serious issues, and I want to be clear about this: I don't want any of our employees to have a negative experience working here, and I want to know about it when it happens so we can find the problems and fix them.

It has always been so important to Dan and me that Mailchimp is a company where all employees feel included, respected, and safe-a place where people can do their best, most creative work. Employees experiencing anything less is unacceptable to me and all of our leaders.

I'm hearing loud and clear that we have work to do, including needing greater transparency around pay equity and an intentional focus on inclusion. I want to address these issues head-on, and I know we'll be stronger for it. I'm asking our leadership team to prioritize these issues and work with me to fix them. What we do needs to match what we say.
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I would really appreciate your candid feedback to help us get there. I'm also hearing that some of you have already raised concerns or pointed out problems you're experiencing, and we haven't made enough progress in response. I want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their experiences and trust that we'll make the right adjustments. Just as bullying, harassment, and discrimination won't be tolerated-neither will retaliation or intimidation for speaking up.

I'm having office hours every day next week, and I've asked the entire executive team to hold office hours too. You can sign up here [LINK]. You're also welcome to email me directly or message me on Slack. We've also heard that some of you would rather submit your feedback anonymously. That's completely understandable, and we're working on a new way to do that that guarantees confidentiality-will follow up with details next week.

We're going to listen hard and change fast, responding to your feedback and taking action to invest in our culture and rebuild trust. You can expect regular updates on this. We know this will require work and focus beyond the next few weeks. We're in it for the long haul. I hope you are too.
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One final note: for many of us, the last few years have been a crash course in understanding how insidious forces like racism and sexism can show up in the workplace. I know I've learned a great deal, and with Cris Gaskin's help, we've been intentional about better educating ELT to recognize these forces so we can address them. We're still learning, but I feel better equipped to make the changes we need going forward.

Thank you all for your commitment to making Mailchimp a great place to work. I'm grateful for you. /bc

--

Ben Chestnut
Mailchimp CEO & Co-founder
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