Chief, a professional network designed for women in leadership, has cut 14% of staff, or 43 jobs today, saying in an email seen by TechCrunch that the move is a response to the economy and that the outfit is restructuring to further focus on member experience.
The layoff largely hit Chief’s U.S. employees as the business’s newly launched U.K. presence is smaller. Around 262 employees remain at the company. Those who were impacted received at least 12 weeks of severance and continued healthcare insurance. Chief closed its New York office for today as employees process the news.
Chief co-founders Lindsay Kaplan and Carolyn Childers wrote the email to staff explaining the decision. Beyond attributing the “challenging macroeconomic environment” that has plagued a vast number of tech startups over the past year, the duo highlighted four priorities for the business going forward: more in-person opportunity, personalization to support members, simplification of the digital experience, and lastly, to continue “to embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into all aspects of the Chief experience.”
The last priority that was emphasized by the co-founders — to bring diversity into all of the Chief experience — comes less than one month after the New York Times published a story looking into turmoil at the business over some members’ perspective that Chief should speak up on social and economic issues that impact marginalized women. Around 33% of Chief’s membership base identifies as coming from a diverse background, down from 35% in October. The company recently hit 20,000 members.
At TechCrunch Disrupt last year, Chief’s co-founders spoke to the “extra scrutiny” that mission-oriented companies receive. “For Lindsay and I, that has always just been like, the forefront of everything that we have thought about as we thought about the teams and the culture and what we want to build,” Childers said. “We have actually felt that more because we are a mission-based company, than being women CEOs or founders.”
Kaplan added that the extra scrutiny “doesn’t feel like a ticking time bomb. It’s us making sure that we’re always walking the walk and practicing what we preach.”
Chief clearly wants staff, members and the world to know that it is focused on experience. The workforce reduction comes one week after the business announced that it hired another executive: Sujean Lee, former chief experience officer at HypeBeast, as Chief’s first chief experience officer.
The company hit a $1.1 billion valuation in a matter of three years, last raising a $100 million Series B round led by Alphabet’s CapitalG in 2022. Like many others, valuations have been harder and harder to defend as the market worsens. For example, 70% of Chief members see their membership, which costs up to $7,900 annually, paid for by employers. Now those same employers are looking for expenses to cut and are slashing workforces themselves.
Chief declined to comment on the layoff and financials beyond the e-mail.