Nike just did it: More ex­ecs booted for work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion

Mail & Guardian - - Sport - John Biers

Nike has dis­missed more ex­ec­u­tives as it tries to ad­dress a work­place cul­ture marred by sex­ual ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing, em­bar­rass­ing a brand that projects it­self as pro­mot­ing equal­ity and em­pow­er­ment.

The lat­est de­par­tures, con­firmed on Wed­nes­day by a Nike spokes­woman, con­sist of five ex­ec­u­tives, one of them a woman, and lifts the to­tal number of peo­ple dis­missed to about a dozen, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent Trevor Edwards, who had been seen as a chief ex­ec­u­tive in wait­ing.

Since Edwards’ de­par­ture was an­nounced in March, United States me­dia re­ports have chron­i­cled myr­iad cases in which women were sub­jected to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and of­ten passed over for pro­mo­tion.

This comes amid a broader re­think in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety about gen­der re­la­tions, fol­low­ing the down­fall of Hol­ly­wood mogul Har­vey We­in­stein and the en­su­ing #MeToo move­ment that has top­pled nu­mer­ous fig­ures in busi­ness, pol­i­tics and en­ter­tain­ment.

Re­main­ing se­nior Nike em­ploy­ees have said lit­tle pub­licly about the staffing over­haul be­yond chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Parker’s re­marks in March, in which he em­pha­sised the need to ad­dress “some be­havioural is­sues” that clashed with Nike’s cul­ture.

“I’m com­mit­ted to en­sure that we have an en­vi­ron­ment where ev­ery Nike em­ployee can have a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and reach their full po­ten­tial,” Parker said in a March 22 earn­ings con­fer­ence call.

The up­heaval comes as Nike has ex­pe­ri­enced sales stag­na­tion in North Amer­ica, off­set in the most re­cent quar­ter by a strong per­for­mance in China and other over­seas mar­kets. CFRA In­vest­ment Re­search an­a­lyst Victor Ah­luwalia said it was too soon to know whether the prob­lems would fur­ther dent North Amer­i­can sales, but he pre­dicted that the com­pany’s tra­vails could trou­ble con­sumers.

Nike’s fa­mous “Just Do It” slo­gan em­pha­sises em­pow­er­ment, as do spon­sor­ships of ath­letes such as Michael Jor­dan and Ser­ena Williams.

“The com­pany was viewed as pro­gres­sive and kind of mil­len­ni­al­friendly, so for some­thing like this to hap­pen with a brand that comes with that kind of a mes­sage was shock­ing,” said Ah­luwalia.

But he praised the com­pany for “be­ing proac­tive,” in con­trast to other com­pa­nies that re­sponded to work­place scan­dals only af­ter prob­lems sur­faced pub­licly, usu­ally in me­dia re­ports.

Since Edwards’ de­par­ture was an­nounced in March, oth­ers to leave have in­cluded top ex­ec­u­tives in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion and Nike bas­ket­ball.

The house­clean­ing was spurred by a sur­vey of frus­trated women em­ployed in Nike’s Ore­gon head­quar­ters who polled their peers, found wide­spread sex­ual ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and pre­sented the data to Parker, ac­cord­ing to an ex­posé in The New York Times.

The ar­ti­cle also cited women who re­ported prob­lems rang­ing from be­ing cursed to be­ing ex­cluded from key meet­ings and not be­ing pro­moted. — AFP

“Ev­ery Nike em­ployee should have a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and reach their full po­ten­tial”

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