Success! CEO of Major Jewelry Company Steps Down After Accusations of ‘Sex Fests’

“If you didn’t do what he wanted with him, you wouldn’t get your (preferred) store or raise.”

Routine sexual “preying” at company events “was done out in the open and appeared to be encouraged, or at least condoned, by the company.”

69,000 Female Employees Accuse Sterling Of Gender Discrimination

These are just two of the statements from a class-action case brought against Kay and Jared jewelry company in which a staggering 69,000 women accused the company of widespread gender discrimination.

According to The Washington Post, Sterling’s stores sell the majority of America’s jewelry and the company has more than 18,000 employees in all 50 states. Signet, its parent company, is the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry and in 2015 sold more than $6 billon’s worth of jewelry, watches and services.

These women, employees of Sterling Jewelers, the parent company of Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, allege that throughout the late 1990s and 2000s its chief executive and other company leaders routinely groped, demeaned and sexually harassed them in exchange for job security or advancement.

This is famously the company with the “Every Kiss Begins With Kay” slogan — the company that seeks to promote its stores as places of romance, where you can get a ring for your special someone.

Care2 Petition Demands Firing Of Mark Light

As Care2′s online organizing strategist Lacey Kohlmoos discovered when she read about the class action arbitration case originally filed in 2008, the reality for female employees of Sterling was very different.

Outraged by this blatant gender discrimination, Kohlmoos created a Care2 petition demanding that the Sterling Jewelers Board of Directors immediately fire CEO Mark Light and require comprehensive sexual assault training in all their stores and corporate offices.

Her petition gathered over 40,000 signatures, insisting on an end to this dominating and offensive culture.

Huge Victory!

Finally, in July, Kohlmoos learned that her Care2 petition had succeeded. Here’s what she posted:

“Great news! Mark Light has just stepped down as CEO for “health reasons.” Perhaps those “health reasons” were that he was sick of the public backlash brought on by all of you. Thank you for helping to take down the man who created a company culture that encouraged male executives to become sexual predators. We hope the new CEO, Gina C. Drosos, will make the company a safe place for women once again.”

The details of this highly abusive culture are disturbing.

According to The Washington Post, former employees stated that “top male managers, some at the company’s headquarters near Akron, Ohio, dispatched scouting parties to stores to find female employees they wanted to sleep with, laughed about women’s bodies in the workplace, and pushed female subordinates into sex by pledging better jobs, higher pay or protection from punishment.”

Sterling “Sex-Fests”

In her petition, Kolhmoos writes about Sterling “sex-fests.”

“The male executives used this opportunity to prey on their female managers. Various women reported being groped and kissed without consent. Multiple witnesses reported in their testimony that on one occasion they saw Sterling Jewelers CEO Mark Light jumping into a swimming pool to be ‘entertained’ by nude and semi-nude female employees.”

That such a culture existed at all is deeply troubling, but the fact that it took from 2008 to 2017 for the more than 1,300 pages of testimony to be released to the public is shameful.

Sexual harassment training for companies is still not mandatory in all states, but the more we unearth cultures like the one at Sterling, the more it will become clear that such training should be required universally.

Congratulations and thank you to Lacey Kohlmoos and all you Care2 activists who signed her petition. This is a huge step forward for gender equality. 

If you have an issue, whether local, national or international that is deeply concerning to you, why not create your own petition? Using these guidelines, you’ll find it’s easy and soon Care2 members will be signing up to support you.



Image credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr


Marie W
Marie W19 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Ingrid H
Ingrid H5 months ago

thank you

Ann B
Ann B5 months ago

one of many a lot to go!!!!

Margie F5 months ago

Thank you

Jaime J
Jaime J5 months ago

Thank you!!

Elaine D
Elaine D5 months ago

Thank you

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer5 months ago

Oh, I see I signed last March,

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer5 months ago

Good article - I will sign the petition

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer5 months ago

Signet is the parent of Kays and Jared and all below a bigger company - hmmmmmm.

Roberto M
Roberto MARINI5 months ago

thanks for sharing