The #MeToo movement has finally come to Beaverton, and not a moment too soon.
According to a lengthy report from The New York Times, the “bro” culture at Nike is toxic to women and harmful to their careers.
Nike’s own research shows that women occupy nearly half the company’s workforce 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.
The problem runs deeper than looking away from the women’s athletic market. Women who work for, or with, Nike have their own stories to tell, some of which appear in the Times investigative piece. More critical voices are now emerging on social.
Championship runner, coach, and entrepreneur, Lauren Fleshman, has this to say:
In my 9+ years as a Nike athlete, I saw women as the visiting species. I fought to have women marketed outside the male gaze. There are great men and women there, but culture is first forged within an origin story. https://t.co/QoTODNTcJ7
— Lauren Fleshman (@laurenfleshman) April 30, 2018
“Culture is first forged with an origin story.” Too true. Culture is then grown in the company’s petri dish, for better or worse. For Nike, it’s remarkable to me how much the company gets away with. Ask people who’ve been there, and you might hear the following complaints: the one Fortune 500 company in Oregon refuses to pay well, prefers to hire contractors over staff, routinely fails to pay contractors on time, avoids as many local and state taxes as possible, manufactures their products overseas, and so on with the degrees of disrespect.
Nike’s advertising tells a different story, one of pushing through tough physical and mental challenges to win, and win again. One thing we know, Nike and their Portland-born-and-bred ad agency, have occupied the medal stand for decades. Public perception of the brand, even in progressive Portland, is mostly positive. Maybe it has something to do with the 18,000 people in the Portland metro who rely on The Swoosh for income. Or maybe it has to do with advertising telling one story while the criminal, subversive, and/or merely lame actions of the company’s team members go unchecked.