A Note from Shane and Suroosh

December 23, 2017

Today, VICE founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi sent the below note to VICE global staff:

As most of you know, the New York Times has been working on a piece about the workplace culture here at VICE. The Times is planning to run the story online shortly.

Listening to our employees over the past year, the truth is inescapable: from the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive. Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. That includes a detrimental “boy’s club” culture that fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company. It happened on our watch, and ultimately we let far too many people down. We are truly sorry for this.

As you know, we have already taken action regarding multiple instances of unacceptable behavior, resulting in the termination of three employees. We will continue to investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention.

We understand that this had an impact on current and former employees at VICE, and we want to express our deepest apologies to them, as well as our extreme regret for our role in perpetuating sexism in the media industry and society in general.

Our failures stem from a) our ignorance, b) the inability to see the impact of our rapid growth, and c) the internal dysfunction that ensued. To be clear, it was not any kind of intentional, company-level systemic bias. This doesn't excuse our mistakes, but we hope it gives you confidence in our desire and ability to get it right.

VICE began 23 years ago as a punk magazine exploring the subversive counterculture that our writers, our readers and we were a part of. We were vehemently anti-censorship, anti-establishment and apolitical, and we wanted to build a company based on egalitarian principles.

Ten years ago, we set out on a new journey, moving beyond covering just streetwear, drugs, and sex, to news and social justice issues. Over the last decade, we have severed ties with colleagues who espoused misogynistic and extremist ideologies, and evolved VICE from a publication with a tiny staff to a media company employing thousands of the most talented creative minds all over the world.

Throughout our history, we’ve undergone seismic change and reinvention, but we did not keep pace with that growth by putting into place the internal policies and structures that would prevent disparate treatment toward some of our employees.

So what are we going to do now? We’re going to make VICE a truly modern work culture that lives up to the egalitarian values that we lost. We are going to listen to our staff, and we are going to train a new generation of managers and leaders. Below is a list of actions we have already taken to make VICE a better place:

  • HR — We hired a new Chief Human Resources Officer, Susan Tohyama, who has broad authority to implement changes worldwide.
  • ADVISORY BOARD — We created a new Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – chaired by Roberta Kaplan, and including Tina Tchen, Gloria Steinem, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Maya Harris and others – to address critical issues of workplace culture and develop and implement changes.
  • PAY PARITY — We have committed to pay parity by the end of 2018, under the guidance of Columbia University Professor Suzanne Goldberg, a leading expert on the issue.
  • NON-TRADITIONAL WORKPLACE AGREEMENT — With consultation from the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, we have removed the non-traditional workplace agreement that employees were formerly required to sign.
  • MATERNITY/PATERNITY LEAVE — We have expanded maternity and paternity benefits for all full-time employees.
  • STRENGTHENED REPORTING PROCESS — We have clarified consensual relationships and sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures, creating a confidential third-party-operated employee hotline to report tips or complaints.
  • ENHANCED TRAINING PROGRAMS — We revamped our training programs and enlisted a well-known and experienced consultant in workplace training, Wade Davis of YSC, to lead sensitivity training sessions for senior management.
  • NEW COO — We expanded Sarah Broderick's role to global Chief Operating Officer. This gives Sarah the authority she needs to improve efficiency and accountability in our work environment.

  • We can no longer be a part of the problem – particularly if, as journalists and storytellers, we want to investigate and cover the many injustices in the world today.

    No matter your gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, at VICE, we will listen to and amplify your stories, and we will make this a company in which we can all take pride.


    Shane and Suroosh