Female-focused lingerie company ThirdLove burst onto the scene as a purportedly feminist alternative for underthings, putting a focus on a better fitting bra and a for women, by women attitude.
But according to new reporting by Vox, ThirdLove may well be talking the talk but it is not walking the walk.
Several former and current employees spoke to the outlet about their experiences with the brand, charging that co-CEO David Spector — who is much less visible that his wife, co-CEO Heidi Zak — contributes to an intimidating, dismissive, condescending, and bullying management style, and the company as a whole isn’t quite so pro-female-employee as its public image might make it seem.
Unhappily employed? Several former and current employees of lingerie company ThirdLove have spoken out against the company in a new piece
Zak and Spector started ThirdLove in 2013, and the six-year-old brand has gone on to build up to 350 employees, $68.6 million in funding, a huge online presence, name recognition, and a brick and mortar store in New York City.
Much of the brand’s messaging has been about how Zak started the company when she couldn’t find a bra that fit — and was embarrassed to be shopping at Victoria’s Secret.
She hired lingerie designer Ra’el Cohen, and the two women tend to be the most visible executives at the company.
But according to past and present employees who spoke to Vox, Zak’s husband Spector actually plays a pretty big role in the company — and it’s not seen as a good one to everyone.
Some find this particularly disappointing given that they were buying into what they thought was a feminist company mission.
‘I would absolutely call ThirdLove’s culture toxic, and I would call it top-down toxic,’ a former employee said. ‘New hires feel like they’re joining a movement they believe in and have a really hard experience when they realize that’s an illusion.’
Couple: While co-CEO Heidi Zak is the face of the company, her husband David Spector, also a CEO, has come under fire
Boss: Employees have accused Spector of bullying and creating a toxic work culture
To the bullying charges against Spector, one employee who worked at the front desk said she was reprimanded numerous times for not cleaning up small pieces of trash he found outside on the street.
‘Co-CEO Dave makes this place unbearable,’ wrote one former employee on Glassdoor.
Front-facing: Zak is frequently the one to make public statements for the company
‘He’s toxic, he bullies people, and he berates employees.
‘You will not be paid fairly here, and god forbid you try to ask for fair pay, as that is not tolerated by management. People quit left and right, and are rarely replaced… underpaid junior employees are expected to pick up this slack with little help or guidance.’
Another called the co-CEOs ‘micro-managers’ and accused Spector of ‘promoting a culture unbecoming of a CEO,’ while one more wrote: ‘The amount of micro-aggressions that are said and acted upon from higher management will make your head spin.’
Nearly the entire brand team and brand marketing team left by May of this year.
‘People are warned against disagreeing with him publicly ‘cause it’s like, look what happened to the brand team,’ said a current employee.
But it’s not just the bullying that has upset some employees. Several also pointed to unwelcoming company policies that leave employees feeling undervalued.
Some said that starting salaries were below average, and that the company refused to let new hires negotiate salaries and would ‘try to make you feel greedy’ when anyone attempted it.
Messaging: The company promotes a pro-women ehtos, but some employees say that doesn’t apply within
Combative: Some took issue with the ad they ran against Victoria’s Secret in the New York Times, which was signed by just Zak bur reportedly written by Spector
They noted other policies that might be normal for small startups, but didn’t fit in with a company that professes to be so pro-women. For example, people might get strongly worded emails for missing a company happy hour, and leaving before 6pm is discouraged.
Only 15 accrued PTO days are available, and employees were expected to work the days before and after Thanksgiving — which is certainly abnormal for an American office.
‘The problem with ThirdLove is that they keep saying they’re a startup, and they use the term startup as an excuse like, “We’re not gonna give you competitive salaries, you’re gonna be on the grind, but it’s all about this mission and if you believe in the mission, the company will be successful and then you’ll be successful.” But ThirdLove is not a startup,’ one source said.
Several people also griped about ThirdLove’s public battle against Victoria’s Secret.
Last year, after Victoria’s Secret’s former Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek made some troubling comments in a Vogue interview about plus-size and trans models, ThirdLove published a full-page ad in the New York Times calling them out.
Some employees didn’t agree with the combative tone, which Spector was responsible for.
‘It was supposed to be this empowering letter from a female CEO but Dave rewrote it. Heidi gave him credit for it in a company meeting,’ one employee said.
‘In a by women, for women company, it’s pretty ironic that we’re all tiptoeing around a man,’ said another.
Public facing: Zak and lingerie designer Ra’el Cohen are often seen as the faces of the brand, though Spector has a lot of pull
Divided? Still, not everyone who spoke to Vox had negative things to say. In fact, several employees defended the company and said they were happy
The irony went beyond that, with some charging Spector of being hypocritical. One said he mocked Victoria’s Secret for being ‘messed-up company, run by a man, they’re so old school’ — even though Spector himself is running ThirdLove behind the scenes.
Still, not everyone who spoke to Vox had negative things to say. In fact, several employees defended the company and said they were happy.
And on Glassdoor, the company has a 3.6 rating, as well as several rave reviews.
‘I don’t have much to say besides that ThirdLove is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had! As a female working in the bay area where there are a lot of guys at companies I never thought there would be a place in the bay area which would embrace me as a woman, my feminist values and ideals, and my work style as a marketer and creative,’ one wrote.
‘Kinda fun to be on this journey, feels like we’re building something special, really making a big impact and changing something for the better! Most of my jobs in the past have felt like a grind this one doesn’t. I have been at the company for more than two years now.’
Added another: ‘The management team is, for the most part, receptive and helpful. You can tell they work hard and are usually available at a moments notice. I would say this company is also the most understanding and lenient I have ever seen. They are great with accommodations and want to be there for you if you’re having a hard time.’
However, quite a few of the other Glassdoor reviewers accused Spector of writing fake five-star reviews on the site.
In a joint statement made to DailyMail.com on Wednesday, both Spector and Zak confessed that the company ‘is not perfect’, but insisted that they have worked to create a brand that is ‘inclusive in every sense’.
‘As founders of a fast-growing company with nearly 400 employees, we are constantly listening to feedback and are always trying to improve,’ they said.
‘We are not perfect, nor do we run a perfect business, but since founding ThirdLove, we have always strived to foster a working environment where both women and men alike feel appreciated and supported in their professional growth. ThirdLove has always been an inclusive brand, in every sense, and we are utterly passionate about empowering women and standing up for what we believe in and what we believe is right.
‘At the end of the day, we are building something truly special and doing the right thing as a brand.’