Meet Frances Frei, WeWork’s first female board member

Frances Frei is a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School

September 04, 2019 04:11 PM
Frances Frei (Credit: Twitter)

Frances Frei (Credit: Twitter)

Not only is the We Company’s newest board member the person who helped Uber through its leadership crisis in 2017 — she’s also the company’s antidote to criticism over its all-male board.

The WeWork parent company announced Wednesday that it will add Frances Frei to its board of directors ahead of public offering. Backlash arose last month after the company revealed its board members in its S-1 filing, which touted a “culture of inclusivity.”

Frei is a professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School whose research focuses on how executives work to make their companies and employees succeed. She is currently working to help launch the Leadership Consortium, a program that aims to improve diversity at senior levels of some of the world’s top companies.

In 2017, Uber tapped Frei as senior vice president of leadership and strategy, where she was charged with helping the company work through a leadership crisis that ultimately saw co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick step away from the firm.

In an interview with Vox when she left the ridesharing startup in 2018, Frei said, “[Uber] feels for me, given all the bad circumstances, as sanded, and that it is ready to have some education painted on it. My goal is to make this a world-class company that can be proud of itself in the end, rather than embarrassed.”

WeWork declined to comment on Frei joining the board, and Frei did not respond to a request for comment.

Prior to announcing Frei’s appointment, WeWork’s board consisted solely of chairman and co-founder Adam Neumann and six male members: Bruce Dunlevie, Ronald Fisher, Lewis Frankfort, Steven Langman, Mark Schwartz and John Zhao.

The company plans to add another director to its board within one year of its IPO with an eye on increasing its diversity, according to an amended A-1 filing.

But the all-male board was just one of the many controversies that has sprung up around WeWork as it prepares to file an IPO. Observers have also raised concerns about a mismatch between the firm’s cash flow and liabilities and massive loans it has given to Neumann and other executives.

Related Article

600 California Street in San Francisco and Adam Neumann (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

“Inherent risk:” Rating agencies have had doubts about WeWork for years

The We Company CEO Adam Neumann (Credit: Getty Images)

WeWork pushes ahead with September IPO

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and WeWork CEO Adam Neumann (Credit: iStock and Getty Images)

These are SoftBank’s levers to disrupt WeWork’s IPO

Adam Neuman and Masayoshi Son (Credit: Getty Images)

WeWork’s plunging valuation could spell concern for other real estate startups