Closing The Gap

WeWork exec says being a woman means helping men achieve their calling

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann with wife and founding partner Rebekah Neumann.
WeWork CEO Adam Neumann with wife and founding partner Rebekah Neumann.

WeWork, the shared space company, describes its annual summer camp as a place to de-stress, meditate and go off the grid. But at its most recent festival, a comment by WeWork founding partner Rebekah Neumann left some people scratching their heads.

At the three-day extravaganza, Rebekah made an appearance alongside her husband, WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, and co-founder Miguel McKelvey, recounts attendee and journalist Thomas Hobbs in a recently published article for Property Week.

Rebekah took the stage and pointed to her husband's sister Adi who was sitting in the front row, says Hobbs. She then started to cry while thanking Adi for helping Adam get his start when he moved to New York.

"I'm so grateful you took care of Adam," Hobbs recalled Rebekah saying. "You helped him create the biggest family in the world. A big part of being a woman is to help men [like Adam] manifest their calling in life."

Perhaps surprisingly, Hobbs reports, people in the crowd did not react to the idea that a large part of a woman's success would be tied to a man's achievements and not their own. "There were points where I said to myself: Are they really saying these things?" Hobbs told Make It.

However, the comment rankled several women on social media today when Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Ellen Huet tweeted Rebekah's quote and said it "sent my eyebrows into the stratosphere." Other Twitter users responded, "Think I'm failing as a woman," and "Naw, just naw."

"[Rebekah] might have been trying to make a wider point," Hobbs said, "but it got a little lost to be honest."

WeWork declined to comment but emailed an additional quote from Rebekah's summer camp remarks to provide some context. She also said at the event:

"The reality that I see today is that there is nothing bigger that women can do, in my opinion, than empower their partners — and that can be a man, a woman, a friend, it doesn't matter, but empower others."

Adam has publicly credited his wife for helping to transform his life and mindset. He told TechCrunch in 2017 that his decision to embark on a business career was at first motivated by money and a fun, fast-paced lifestyle. That changed when he met Rebekah.

"She told me that if I brought passion and intention together, it would lead me in the right direction and I would become genuinely happy," said Adam. "And then, the money would follow."

His sister Adi also provided a seamless transition to the U.S., which helped propel Adam's business career. When the CEO first moved to New York City from Israel, Adam lived in her apartment for five years, while taking business classes and managing her income, Forbes reports.

A number of other execs have attributed their success to the female figures in their lives, including former president Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But few, if any, have said a woman's role was to support a man's calling.

Nor is this the only time Rebekah has shared similar sentiments. In a wide-ranging 2016 interview with Porter magazine, the entrepreneur discussed how she's helped her husband, saying: "Women need to get to the right level for men to even have the opportunity to get there."

"We create a place for them to rise to," she continued. "We have a really important role to play."

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