Miki Agrawal can be described as an entrepreneur, a provocateur, and a "she-e-o"--a cheeky title she uses for external communications--but don't call her a feminist or you might find yourself at the center of a "ranty" Medium post.

You might know of Thinx. But for the uninitiated, it's the maker of "period-proof" underwear and other feminine hygiene products. And despite the company's pro-woman message, its co-founder's brand of feminism appears to exist only in the company's marketing materials, according to a new report.

An investigation by Racked uncovered a broad gap between the company's message and its reality, ranging from deficient maternity leave programs to poor wages and hostile negotiations. Agrawal, who announced her departure as CEO just last week, is portrayed as an erratic character unable to detach herself from her celebrity persona. 

A Thinx spokesperson told Inc. it is looking into the allegations: "We are actively working to address and improve our corporate culture. We look forward to updating the community as new leaders and corporate processes are put into place." Agrawal has been a columnist for Inc.com.

Citing current and former employees--all unnamed--the report describes a work environment that prompted at least 10 people from the 35-person team to leave the company since January.

"It was truly like being in an abusive relationship," one former employee told Racked. "One day they could be in a super great mood and everything's fine and dandy and you're being praised left and right, or else you walk in and you're treated like you're dirt ... That takes an emotional and physical toll on you."

According to Racked's sources, Agrawal has "a knack for inspiring employees to tap into their most creative selves." Turns out, however, it was often eclipsed by the entrepreneur's pursuit of personal fame--a quest that created a "cognitive dissonance" within the company, according to the report.

"Creating safe spaces for girls when none of us feel safe in our own company? That's absurd. That's an oxymoron," said one source, referencing the newly launched Thinx Foundation, the company's nonprofit arm that seeks to provide safe spaces for girls in India and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile Thinx's "she-e-o"--a title she plans to maintain after stepping down as CEO--has been lauded for her work multiple times. Last week, she was nominated for a Shero Award at the first-annual Women's Choice Awards, and her accolades include being named one of Inc.'s Most Innovative Women in 2016 and 2017's Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

It is impossible to deny Agrawal's influential public persona. Even as Thinx's board of directors search for a "professional CEO" to fill her position, she will continue to be the face of the brand. It is unclear how these revelations will impact Thinx's performance or even Agrawal's role as a spokeswoman.To be sure, Racked's article includes a note from a Thinx spokesperson stating that the article contained "inaccurate" information, though it did not point out what exactly was erroneous.

Published on: Mar 15, 2017