When the human resources department failed to see what women inside their office at their Beaverton headquarters at Oregon were facing, a group of women covertly surveyed their female peers, gave the report to Nike’s chief executive and many heads starting rolling on their own
The Hush Post: An article carried in The New York Times shows the way to women across the globe on how not to take things lying low, if it comes to exploitation of any kind at the workplace. It has set an example for all women workers who go out there to earn a living and get bullied at the workplace facing discrimination of various sorts. Instead of fighting a lonely battle, if its a wall of affected people the perpetrators have to face, they just bump against it and fall off. The slogan ‘just do it’ was used by Nike’s women employees as a satire while making a complaint of sexploitation.
Here is the news story The New York Times carried which includes interviews with more than 50 current and former employees, providing a clear insight of how disaffection among women brewed and left them feeling ignored, harassed and stymied in their careers, read on.
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 marginalised 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, Oregon, 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 Parker, and Jayme Martin, 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 realisation 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 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, 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 long-standing 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,” Shebiel added. “We went to make it better.”
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.
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 workforce but just 38 per cent of positions of director or higher, and 29 per cent of the vice presidents, according to an April 4 internal memo obtained by The Times.