Commentary

Purge At Nike Continues With 5 Execs, Including Marketers, Exiting

Nike yesterday acknowledged that five more executives — including two top marketers and one woman — have left the company as the reckoning over inappropriate behavior in the workplace continues. All told, 11 senior managers have recently departed.

The newly detached executives are Steve Lesnard, VP and GM of global running; Tommy Kain, director of sports marketing; Helen Kim, VP and GM of Nike East, North America; Simon Pestridge, GVP of marketing for performance categories; and Ibrahem Hasan, a senior creative director who the New York Times reports had been involved with the company’s marketing campaigns with the British female singer FKA Twigs

None of the exiting executives could be reached by anyone for comment and “the company declined to expand on why they’d departed,” as Bloomberg reports.

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“The latest moves come a little more than a week after The New York Times, using interviews with more than 50 current and former Nike employees, reported on women’s complaints of being marginalized, harassed and thwarted in their careers at the company, and about indignities that included humiliating visits to strip clubs and unwanted kisses. Many of those interviewed said when they took their grievances to human resources, they did not seem to be taken seriously,” write Julie Creswell and Kevin Draper in breaking yesterday’s news.

“On Tuesday, Nike’s human resources chief, Monique Matheson, told staff the company had received more than 43,000 responses to an employee survey, according to a memo reviewed by the Journal. She wrote that the responses were ‘fueling some very important conversations and changes,’” Sara Germano reports for the Wall Street Journal.

“Ms. Matheson, who previously said the company was changing its hiring and promotion processes, said Tuesday that Nike would start requiring managers to have quarterly performance check-ins with employees,” Germano continues.

“The departures follow the exits of several other executives including a vice president of diversity and inclusion. In March, Nike’s CEO Mark Parker reportedly sent a memo to employees regarding inappropriate workplace behavior and plans to overhaul its leadership,” the AP’s Anne D'Innocenzio reminds us. “That included the resignation of Trevor Edwards, seen as Parker’s successor, and the exit of another executive, Jayme Martin.”

“Over the past few weeks, we've become aware of reports occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment at a time when we are accelerating our transition to the next stage of growth and advance of our culture,” ... Parker said at the time in the email, which was  obtained by ESPN’s Darren Rovell. “This disturbs and saddens me.”

But “a quick glance at both Wall Street and overall consumer sentiment shows hardly a sign that anything is amiss. For the most part, analysts have avoided the subject of Nike’s internal issues, and the firm’s stock has remained relatively stable. Meanwhile, consumers have not initiated a widespread boycott,” observes Sheena Butler-Young for Fairchild’s FN

While it’s difficult to fully explain the public reaction — or lack thereof — at least one school of thought is that Nike’s relationship with women was fairly weak to begin with,” Butler-Young continues.

“What’s really intriguing is that Nike was a little late to the game in embracing women as a key market demographic. A lot of their early efforts seemed to miss the target in terms of bonding with women in a strong way,” Sol Marketing CEO Deb Gabor, the author of Branding Is Sex, tells Butler-Young. “To some extent, they’re coming from a deficiency in terms of their commitment to women.”

The WSJ’s Sara Germano and Joann S. Lublin wrote a piece, “Inside Nike, a Boys-Club Culture and Flawed HR,” in March that preceded all the public upheaval at the Beaverton, Ore.-based global leader in athletic footwear. At the time, the company said that it was “conducting a review of its human resources department and instituting mandatory manager training.”

“Nike has made significant changes to its leadership since announcing the investigation in March, including adjusting its top leadership structure after the exit of [Edwards]. The company also created a new c-level position dedicated to diversity and inclusion, promoted new leaders to run two of its most important categories, women's and running, and placed new female executives in two other top roles,” Clare Duffy reports for the Portland Business Journal.

Nike would appear to be, in short, Just Getting It Done.

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