Nike Employees Described 'Boys' Club' Culture in Unsealed Surveys

TECHNOLOGY
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  • On Tuesday, Insider reported for the first time about unsealed employee surveys that rocked the company in 2018.
  • Nike blamed the inappropriate behavior on an “isolated group of top managers”.
  • Surveys described wide-ranging problems, including “normalized negative sexist behavior”.

In 2018, allegations of a “boys club” culture rocked Nike.

On Tuesday, Insider reported for the first time on the never-before-seen employee surveys, which played a key role in bringing the allegations to light and pushing Nike’s ongoing work to become more inclusive.

Ten of the surveys are now in the public record, following a successful court challenge by Insider, in partnership with the Oregonian and Portland Business Journal.

The surveys, written by female Nike employees in 2018, detail explicit allegations such as witnessing an executive receiving oral sex from a lower-ranking employee, “sloppy drunk” men hugging co-workers on business trips and workplace issues. And they describe a pressure-cooker environment where women felt treated as inferior and called “bitch” and “honey” and “girls.” In multiple multi-page surveys, female employees said the behavior contributed to an “overarching” theme of “normalized negative, manipulative and sexist behavior” at the company.

“When I received this questionnaire, I asked several of my co-workers what they thought about working at Nike,” one employee wrote in a survey. “I asked how fairly they were treated based on performance versus gender. Everyone spoke unanimously about Nike’s ‘Boys Club’. A giant men’s team where favoritism prevails and women are not allowed to play in the sandbox.”

Another survey described a meeting where an executive punched and screamed “to the point of spitting out of his mouth” in front of 10 employees.

“The men’s network maintains unwritten rules that define insiders and outsiders,” the interviewee wrote in two pages of typed and detailed concerns. “They decide who is successful and who is not. The women at this company felt very little power to change a culture and environment that was and continues to be disrespectful to women. Even women are disrespectful to women without consequences. This company must lay a new foundation and it must start at the highest level of the organization.”

In 2018, in response to questions from The New York Times, which reported on Nike’s culture, Nike attributed inappropriate behavior at the company to an “isolated group of high-level managers in the pockets of the organization” who “protected each other others and looked the other way.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs in an ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike said research shows that problematic behavior at the company was not isolated.

“It wasn’t limited to one vertical or one department,” said Laura Salerno Owens, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “And it wasn’t limited to one manager. This was a common experience throughout the company.”

Nike declined to respond to Insider’s written questions about the surveys, including whether it maintained its earlier characterization of the behavior being limited to an “isolated group of top managers.”

Since then, the company has taken a number of steps to become more inclusive, including salary adjustments, changing its hiring process, overhauling its compensation system and disclosing more information about its workforce demographics.

Read the full Insider story.

Work at Nike or have ideas to share? Contact reporter Matthew Kish via the Signal encrypted messaging app (+1-971-319-3830) or email (mkish@insider.com). Check out the Insider Sources guide for other tips on how to safely share information.

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