In a videoconference staff meeting, Ms. Pels offered tearful apologies. “I have not done enough to correct imbalances,” she said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Times.
In a statement for this article, Ms. Pels said diversity was a “career-long priority for me.”
“At this pivotal moment, my team and I have been making real changes and having extensive, honest and passionate discussions about the progress that needs to be made, and the work I can do as a leader to actively facilitate it,” she said in the statement.
As Cosmopolitan’s top editor, Ms. Pels has conducted interviews with Democratic presidential candidates and published an essay in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement by Senator Kamala Harris of California.
Hearst employees have questioned company leadership at a time when employees at its more glamorous rival, Condé Nast, have done the same. There have also been staff revolts at other media organizations, including The Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal and Refinery29.
Last month Hearst Magazines appointed Samira Nasr, previously Vanity Fair’s fashion director, as the top editor of the U.S. edition of Harper’s Bazaar. She is the first woman of color to hold the post. And Cosmopolitan started an initiative, “Cosmo Can Do Better,” that calls for the hiring of more Black people and people of color. As part of it, the magazine released staff statistics, saying its work force was made up of 29 percent Black people and people of color, 61 percent white employees, with 10 percent undisclosed. Its leadership comprised 21 percent people of color, the survey said. A Hearst spokeswoman said the company is committed to diversity at all levels.
Michelle Ruiz, a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan, said the messages of inclusion and empowerment from many Hearst publications were at odds with company leadership. She described an encounter with Mr. Young at the Hearst cafeteria that took place when she was heavily pregnant. “So, is the baby mine?” he said, as she recalled it.
“For an executive at the company to suggest that he’d impregnated me was clearly inappropriate,” said Ms. Ruiz, now a contributing editor at Vogue.com. “There’s a real hypocrisy to elevating this man to lead a company populated with magazines that are preaching women’s empowerment on their covers.”