Nike just did it: More execs booted for workplace discrimination

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 millennial- friendly, 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


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