May 1, 2018
This weekend, The New York Times released a story detailing a sexist, toxic culture that’s been tormenting Nike employees for years. The story shares instances of sexist comments, work trips to strip clubs, sexually graphic conversations, and unwanted advances that’ve forced many women to quit over the years.
But did they go to HR?
Yes. Of course they did. However, after reporting their experiences, HR proceeded to either: ignore and belittle the complaints; lightly scold the alleged perpetrators; or fire the accuser. None of these are encouraging outcomes.
Change only happened after an internal survey with harassment data from many employees was secretly gathered and then presented to Nike’s chief executive. We have yet to see the internal survey itself or learn the exact number of women surveyed, but the mere fact that it took a survey of many employees to create any change is incredibly telling.
Employees had to form a team to be heard. One woman’s complaint should have been enough. Employers need to learn how to listen instead of deflecting complaints because they inconvenience the C-suite.
Gender bias and sexism aren’t limited to corporate retail; they plague countless industries — cybersecurity in particular, where women make up just 11% of roles. Just Google “sexism at security conferences,” and you’ll read a plethora of cringeworthy accounts. To hear more about changes that can be made, register for my Best Practices: Recruiting And Retaining Women In Cybersecurity webinar on May 10.