Nike HR Exec Reportedly Admits Brand Failed to Make Progress on Diversity

More details are emerging about the internal issues that led to Nike’s executive shake-up last month.

In a company memo obtained by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Nike’s chief human resources officer, Monique Matheson, reportedly told staffers that The Swoosh “has failed to gain traction” in hiring and promoting women and minorities.

To that end, Matheson added that the company wants “to create a culture of true inclusion. As part of our plan, we need to improve representation of women and people of color,” WSJ reported.

“While we’ve spoken about this many times and tried different ways to achieve change, we have failed to gain traction — and our hiring and promotion decisions are not changing senior-level representation as quickly as we have wanted,” the memo reportedly stated.

Last month, Nike announced the back-to-back — and seemingly abrupt — departures of Trevor Edwards, brand president, and Jayme Martin, VP and GM of global categories. At the same time, an internal memo from CEO Mark Parker acknowledged that there had been reports of “behavior occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment.”

(A few days later, on a conference call focused on the firm’s third-quarter results, Parker expressed similar sentiments.)

In the latest leaked memo, Matheson called out several statistics — which are also disclosed by Nike on its corporate website — noting that 29 percent of the firm’s vice presidents are women, although its total workforce count shows gender parity. (According to Nike’s 2017 diversity data, its total global workforce is 52 percent male and 48 percent female.)

In the U.S., 16 percent of vice presidents are nonwhite, she reportedly wrote. (Nike’s diversity report for 2017 also indicates 58 percent of its global workforce is nonwhite and that 23 percent of its directors are nonwhite.)

While Nike has not gone into detail publicly about the nature of the purported misconduct it has experienced, in the #MeToo era — which has drawn significant attention to the harassment of women in the workplace — more and more companies are facing heightened pressure to address behavioral concerns in top management.

At the same time, many experts have suggested that an effective remedy for corporate reform — which sees women and other minorities treated more fairly at work — is creating more diversity in the upper ranks of companies.

Matheson, a 20-year Nike veteran who was chief talent and diversity officer before a promotion in July to EVP of global HR, wrote that Nike plans to change how it hires and promotes staff and also to “remove bias from critical moments of the hiring process.”

According to WSJ, Matheson also noted that several staff trainings along these lines will start next month.

Nike has not responded to FN’s request for comment.

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