Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

At Nike, Revolt Led by Women Leads to Exodus of Executives Guilty of Misconduct and Harassment

leave a comment »

Julie Creswell, Kevin Draper, and Rachel Abrams report in the NY Times:

For too many women, life inside Nike had turned toxic.

There were the staff outings that started at restaurants and ended at strip clubs. A supervisor who bragged about the condoms he carried in his backpack. A boss who tried to forcibly kiss a female subordinate, and another who referenced a staff member’s breasts in an email to her.

Then there were blunted career paths. Women were made to feel marginalized in meetings and were passed over for promotions. They were largely excluded from crucial divisions like basketball. When they complained to human resources, they said, they saw little or no evidence that bad behavior was being penalized.

Finally, fed up, a group of women inside Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters started a small revolt.

Covertly, they surveyed their female peers, inquiring whether they had been the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Their findings set off an upheaval in the executive ranks of the world’s largest sports footwear and apparel company.

On March 5, the packet of completed questionnaires landed on the desk of Mark Parker, Nike’s chief executive. Over the next several weeks, at least six top male executives left or said they were planning to leave the company, including Trevor Edwards, president of the Nike brand, who was widely viewed as a leading candidate to succeed Mr. Parker, and Jayme Martin, Mr. Edwards’s lieutenant, who oversaw much of Nike’s global business.

Others who have departed include the head of diversity and inclusion, a vice president in footwear and a senior director for Nike’s basketball division.

It is a humbling setback for a company that is famous worldwide and has built its brand around the inspirational slogan “Just Do It.” While the #MeToo movement has led to the downfall of individual men, the kind of sweeping overhaul that is occurring at Nike is rare in the corporate world, and illustrates how internal pressure from employees is forcing even huge companies to quickly address workplace problems.

As women — and men — continue to come forward with complaints, Nike has begun a comprehensive review of its human resources operations, making management training mandatory and revising many of its internal reporting procedures.

While the departure of top executives has been covered in news accounts, new reporting by The New York Times, including interviews with more than 50 current and former employees, provides the most thorough account yet of how disaffection among women festered and left them feeling ignored, harassed and stymied in their careers. The Times also viewed copies of three complaints to human resources.

“I came to the realization that I, as a female, would not grow in that company,” said Francesca Krane, who worked for five years in Nike’s retail brand design area before leaving in 2016. She said she grew tired of watching men get promoted into jobs ahead of women she felt were equally or better qualified.

Many of those interviewed, across multiple divisions, also described a workplace environment that was demeaning to women. Three people, for instance, said they recalled times when male superiors referred to people using a vulgar term for women’s genitals. Another employee said that her boss threw his car keys at her and called her a “stupid bitch.” She reported the incident to human resources. (She told her sister about it at the time, the sister confirmed.) He continued to be her supervisor.

Most of the people who spoke to The Times insisted on anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements or a fear of being ostracized in the industry, or in the Portland community, where Nike wields outsize influence. Some have spouses or family members still working there.

In response to questions, Nike portrayed its problems as being confined to “an insular group of high-level managers” who “protected each other and looked the other way.”

“That is not something we are going to tolerate,” said a spokesman, KeJuan Wilkins.

In a statement, Mr. Parker said the vast majority of Nike’s employees work hard to inspire and serve athletes throughout the world. “It has pained me to hear that there are pockets of our company where behaviors inconsistent with our values have prevented some employees from feeling respected and doing their best work,” he said.

For Amanda Shebiel, who left Nike in September after about five years at the company, the promise to address longstanding systemic problems is welcome, but late.

“Why did it take an anonymous survey to make change?” she asked. “Many of my peers and I reported incidences and a culture that were uncomfortable, disturbing, threatening, unfair, gender-biased and sexist — hoping that something would change that would make us believe in Nike again.”

“No one went just to complain,” Ms. Shebiel added. “We went to make it better.”

An Inner Circle of Men

With a market value of about $112 billion and annual revenues of around $36 billion, Nike is a global behemoth in the athletic market, where its dominance went largely unchallenged for several decades.

But the company is facing significant business hurdles. Adidas, one of its biggest competitors, has gained ground in key markets like apparel and footwear. Nike is also struggling to get traction in women’s categories, the fastest-growing segment of the market.

Some of those interviewed by The Times said the weakness in women’s products in part reflected a lack of female leadership and an environment that favored male voices. Nike’s own research shows that women occupy nearly half the company’s work force but just 38 percent of positions of director or higher, and 29 percent of the vice presidents, according to an April 4 internal memo obtained by The Times.

And while Nike executives have told investors that the women’s category was a crucial part of its revenue growth strategy, former employees said it was not given the budget it needed to roll out the sophisticated marketing campaigns that were the hallmark of traditional men’s sports, like basketball.

When Nike did put money behind campaigns targeting women, it sometimes flailed.

Last year, Mr. Edwards, the former president, gave the green light for a marketing campaign for the fall launch of the VaporMax shoe for women; the female British singer FKA Twigs was given creative license for a shoot in Mexico City. The result, according to a person who saw a rough cut of the commercial and another who saw the final cut, featured few shots of the shoes and instead had a woman twirling on what looked like a stripper pole and male athletes in sports bras striking odd poses. The campaign was killed, costing Nike millions of dollars.

Asked about the aborted campaign, Mr. Wilkins of Nike said the company was proud of its relationship with the singer. “We have a history of pushing the boundaries in marketing, just as we do in product development,” Mr. Wilkins said. “We create a lot of material that is not deployed in the marketplace.’’

Nike forcefully disputed the notion that women were not involved in the creative and marketing operations, noting that a female executive leads its women’s division. But Mr. Wilkins, the spokesman, acknowledged that, in areas like basketball, “there was more room and opportunity for the company to increase female representation in its senior positions.”

While women struggled to attain top positions at Nike, an inner circle of mostly male leaders emerged who had a direct line to Mr. Edwards. Within the company, as reported earlier in The Wall Street Journal, this group was known as F.O.T., or Friends of Trevor. They texted him in meetings or bragged about having lunch or dinner with him. . .

Continue reading.

Oddly, the original headline read “At Nike, Revolt Led by Women Leads to Exodus of Male Executives,” as if the problem were that the executives were male. That was not the problem, as the article makes clear.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.