A recent Medium post has accused Planswell’s co-founder and former chief marketing officer Michael Wickware of the sexual harassment of a fellow and now-former Planswell employee.
Posted under the username Jane Doe, the author states that they worked at Planswell for a year, from September 2017 until they left the company in September 2018. The accusations describe incidences where Wickware allegedly sexually harassed Jane Doe for at least 10 months while they worked at Planswell.
“Step off your high horse, take a hard look at yourself, take accountability for your actions.”
Jane Doe alleges that when they came forward to Planswell co-founder and CEO Eric Arnold in February of this year, he told them that it may affect the company’s capability to raise capital if he were to remove Wickware from the company. Jane Doe also alleges that Arnold pushed Jane Doe not to go public with the story, saying they would regret it and that coming forward could make them a “martyr.”
BetaKit has since confirmed with Planswell that Jane Doe came forward to Arnold earlier this year with allegations of sexual harassment against Wickware. Arnold told BetaKit that while he did speak with Jane Doe after first learning about the sexual harassment allegations in February, the multiple conversations he had with Jane Doe were taken out of context.
The Medium post states that Jane Doe decided to publicly share their story after they were triggered by a LinkedIn post from Arnold less than 24 hours before. In his post, Arnold outlines a story where he had previously witnessed sexual harassment in a different company. “It’s easier to value the top sales guy than the cost of bad culture, turnover, and reputation. Many companies still can’t do the math,” the post reads.
“Feminism is not making self-aggrandising posts on LinkedIn declaring your support for women and disdain for sexual harassment in the workplace while having done exactly the opposite behind closed doors,” said Jane Doe in the Medium post. “It’s about your actions and your treatment of people. It’s very easy to proclaim on LinkedIn with indignation.”
“Step off your high horse, take a hard look at yourself, take accountability for your actions, and stop abusing your platform by spreading lies in order to garner likes and attention,” Jane Doe added.
In the Medium post, Jane Doe alleges that they began interacting with Wickware after expressing interest in video and marketing at Planswell, and began pitching ideas to the CMO.
“My interactions with Michael eventually led to me being sexually harassed by him,” the Medium post alleges.
Wickware, in a position of power as a co-founder and C-suite executive, “consistently pushed boundaries in an effort to get closer to me,” asking if “I wanted to sext with him,” and refusing to “leave me alone when I asked him to on numerous occasions,” the post alleges.
Feeling pressured into appeasing Wickware, Jane Doe claims that the two entered into an affair.
“I so deeply wish I was in a healthier mental state to understand what was happening and to have put a stop to Michael’s behaviour in an ethical manner,” the post reads.
Wickware declined a request by BetaKit to offer comment for this story.
The Medium post alleges that when Jane Doe finally decided to come forward to Arnold, the CEO expressed concern for his company and the effect it would have on Planswell raising new funding.
“Eric told me that he wouldn’t know what to tell investors and that he would need to come up with a story,” the Medium post claims. “Eric told me that Michael may have a lot of difficulties finding a new job if he was fired and tried to manipulate and pressure me into dropping the sexual harassment investigation on multiple occasions.”
“When it first came up … neither of us were really sure what to do about it.”
Arnold did not deny any of the accusations when presented to him by BetaKit, but said that the two “discussed every possible pro and con.” He noted that, while he understands Jane Doe is “hurting,” he feels the situation is being represented in “an unfair way.”
“When it first came up … neither of us were really sure what to do about it,” Arnold told BetaKit. “So we actually spent hours at coffee shops, talking it through as a friend, she asked me to meet as a friend, and so we talked for hours and hours.”
Arnold did deny the accusation that Jane Doe informed Planswell’s head of people operations about the alleged sexual harassment and that it was subsequently ignored.
“All I want is for her to be happy, and her to be okay, and her to feel safe,” Arnold added. “And so we were definitely discussing what she would do, what her career path forward would be, as friends. As soon as she decided that she wanted to make an accusation, we hired a third party to do the investigation.”
According to Arnold, the investigation took place in February, and from the day that he became aware of Wickware’s actions, the CMO was not allowed to return to the office. Arnold told BetaKit that Wickware later resigned in March, while the investigation was ongoing.
Arnold told BetaKit that he is “very proud of how [Planswell] handled” the situation. “We had to make a lot of really tough decisions going through it and looking back I’m glad, you know, we dealt with it the way that we did,” he said.
Following the investigation, Arnold said Planswell implemented stronger workplace and sexual harassment policies, which the Medium post claims it did not have during the time Jane Doe worked at the company.
“Diversity is not plastering women on the “About Us” page of your website and giving them titles.”
“We actually have some really interesting learnings from a firm that [Planswell] is working with on teaching us about harassment in the workplace and what it is, and how serious it is,” Arnold stated. “You can’t just wait for people to just report things. You have to be a little bit more proactive about it.”
In an official statement provided to BetaKit Planswell said, “Over the following months, [Planswell] ran an extensive investigation with a third party who specializes in workplace harassment. They interviewed a large group of people and our whole team went through hours of extensive training on how to identify harassment and report it.”
The Medium post alleges that Jane Doe received an apology from Arnold after the investigation closed. “[Arnold] wrote in an email: ‘The way that [Wickware] treated you is absolutely not in line with what we expect from our team and I’m deeply sorry that you had a negative experience’ … [Arnold’s] apology was the professional equivalent of ‘I’m sorry you feel this way.’”
“Eric, what you have done is NOT okay,” the Medium article states. “Diversity is not plastering women on the “About Us” page of your website and giving them titles in positions of power. Diversity isn’t fulfilling your PoC hire quota.”
Public knowledge of the sexual harassment accusations came to light Thursday, after the Medium post was shared to Twitter under the username @JanieDoe1127.
Following the story being shared on Twitter, the @JanieDoe1127 account later shared a tweet alleging that instead of addressing the concerns brought forward in the Medium post, Arnold blocked them on LinkedIn, which Arnold has since denied to BetaKit.
One day after it was originally posted, the article was then briefly removed from Medium, with a system message noting “This story is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.” Jane Doe accused Planswell in a subsequent tweet of trying to silence the story. Arnold denied to BetaKit that he or anyone from Planswell had reported the blog post to Medium.
At time of publishing the Medium post had been taken down again.
UPDATE (10/11/2019): This article has been updated to clarify the context of conversations between Jane Doe and Planswell CEO Eric Arnold earlier this year.
With files from Douglas Soltys