How Women at Nike Took a Stand Against Toxic Masculinity and Got Results

The women at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon had enough of the sexual harassment and sexism saturating their work environment. They decided to just do something about it.

According to a New York Times report, the women created and discreetly distributed a survey on gender-based harassment and discrimination, prompted in part by the departure of three high-level female executives. On March 5, the survey reached Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker.

Neither the questions nor the results of the survey are publically known, but they’ve been enough to spark an internal investigation and the departure (or intended departure) of six top male executives.

A Nike spokesperson told the Times the incidents were limited to small pockets of individuals, though the problem appears more widespread than they’d like to admit.

The New York Times report was based on interviews with 50 current and former Nike employees. The women described a wide range of discriminatory experiences, from male employees discussing women’s bodies to equally- or better-qualified women being passed over for promotion in favor of men.

The discrimination taking place at Nike took two different forms: harassment specifically targeted at an individual and a culture that kept women generally from advancing.

The work culture at Nike sounds like a Mad Men-era boys club which has no place in a modern company.

Multiple women cited instances of male superiors referring to people “using a vulgar term for women’s genitals.” On the way to a work dinner, high level male employees debated whether LA or Portland had better strip clubs while the women employees stared out the windows.

Men also tended to be promoted because of their friendships with other men at the company, while women were passed over.

One employee told the Times her boss threw his car keys at her and called her a “stupid bitch.” She reported the incident to human resources. Nothing happened.

Several women reported the same executive to HR after “berating them” in front of other employees. That executive left suddenly after the survey made it to the CEO.

Another woman said her supervisor sent her an email in which he commented on her breasts. The list, unfortunately, goes on.

A Nike spokesman told the Times that this kind of behavior is not something the company is going to tolerate, but clearly they had been tolerating it—for years. Women had reported these behaviors to HR over and over again, but their complaints were ignored. Nothing was going to change until they all acted together.

“Why did it take an anonymous survey to make change?” Amanda Shebiel, a former Nike employee, asked the Times. “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.”

Nike appears to be making changes, or is at least talking about making changes, but for the women whose careers were derailed because of the company’s inaction, it’s too little, too late.

Photo Credit: Hermes Rivera

121 comments

Lisa M
Lisa M7 days ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M7 days ago

Noted.

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Cindy S
Cindy S17 days ago

nike makes their crap in sweatshops so they could less about women and tney sell leather

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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Tania N
Tania Nabout a month ago

Thanks for the info.

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