Nike’s ‘Equality’ campaign speaks up against discrimination: gender, color and race. Globally known under its popular slogans: “Opportunity should not discriminate”; “the ball should bounce the same for everyone”; “equality should have no boundaries”, the firm has been built upon a strong belief and ideal that individuals are defined by their endeavor and accomplishment, and opportunity should not disfavor. Why is it then, so many women have stood up against Nike, a firm which believes in non-discriminatory opportunities, in the intent to fight against a hostile work environment and a misogynist corporate culture?
A worrisome turmoil, which has been beyond enhanced by several cases of egregious sexual harassment by upper ranks of the sport-brand against female employees in addition to biased promotion opportunities based on gender rather than performance and effort. Commemorating their 30th anniversary and as one of the world’s leading brand on sportswear, Nike has recently launched its latest inspirational campaign “Just Do It”. Represented by San Francisco’s American football quarterback, Collin Kaepernick, under their proverb: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, Nike aims to make people believe in something bigger than themselves, regardless of their gender, race or color, highlighting the importance of personal values and skills. Unfortunately, their values do not stand-up to their actions: the sports apparel-brand has been accused of having a history of gender discrimination, and a recent lawsuit driven by at least 500 underpaid, demeaned and sexually harassed-women proves their misbehavior. Adding fuel to the fire, women’s complaints regarding these issues to Human Resources were ignored. In fact, Amber Admin, one of Nike’s victims, confessed to the New York Times she had sought help from human resources, only to be “part of a round of layoffs” two days later.
Such was the fear of standing up against Nike, an anonymous survey was carried out whereby females discussed, confessed and sought action on gender discrimination and sexual harassment, later on to be presented to Mark Parker, the company’s Chief Executive. Additionally, unequal and callous gender-based opportunities have also amounted women’s complaints in the workplace. Francesa Krance, a woman who worked in Nike for five years, left alleging: “I came to the realization that I, as a female, would not grow in that company”. She had lost all faith in what were meant to be Nike’s so-called values, leaving Krance’s walk away as her only option. Others have described it as an “unclimable pyramid – the more senior the job title, the smaller the percentage of women”, adding to Nike’s current tumult. Unfortunately, it is not only unequal opportunities what has given rise to this upheaval; many have revealed they were victims of sexual harassment. Badgering included an employee who referred to another employee’s breasts in an email to her, or a manager who tried to “forcibly kiss a female subordinate”. This behavior did not lead to any penalization nor did human resources step in at the time.
In response to the firm’s hurdle, six ongoing eight male members, of Nike’s executive team have recently left the brand. Amongst them Trevor Edwards, Nike’s former president and thought to be a good candidate as Parker’s successor, as well as, ironically, the company’s head of diversity and inclusion. Parker has assured further action will be taken, building upon the company’s scrutiny and enforcing a workplace where all voices must be heard.
One way in which the CEO could address the problems at the workplace includes implementing an effective and responsive human resources team, with a proper communication channel, across which employees, both male and female, can denounce any human right violation they may come across or observe. It must be crystal clear promotions are not gender-based decisions, but rather carefully and meticulously studied and chosen. Those who voice out solutions and not complaints, who further knowledge but appreciate feedback, who pay attention to detail and make the most out of their time at the office should be potential candidates for an upgrade in their career, regardless of gender, color and race. Alternatively, or additionally, a relentless attitude towards sexual harassment should be adopted. Top male executives have left the company, accounting for such hideous behavior, but scrutiny amongst the team must be heightened. Trust amongst the firm must be re-established, and alone, an exodus of male executives will not suffice.
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