Spaeth: Nike needs to step it up and promote women and minorities

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

In recent months, Nike has been criticized for not hiring and promoting enough women. There have also been reports of “inappropriate workplace behavior.” The company wants to “include different perspectives” but it will not be able to do this unless it has a better representation of women and minorities — Nike’s executive leadership is predominantly white and male.

By failing to represent minorities and uphold standards of respect for all employees, Nike will struggle to maintain their position as the world’s largest footwear manufacturer.  As Nike is the predominant sponsor of the University of Oregon, a university with such strong beliefs in equality, it is alarming that Nike does not prioritize those standards.

In early April, Nike HR Chief Monique Matheson released a memo stating that the company has “failed to gain traction” in hiring and retaining female and minority employees. Only 29 percent of Nike vice presidents are women, and only 16 percent of VPs are non-white.

Nike has announced it plans to cut 1,400 jobs, equivalent to 2 percent of its global workforce. This is likely a result of Nike’s steady decline of sales in North America, something that can be connected to the lack of diversity in Nike’s executive board: “Research shows that these most diverse companies tend to actually perform better financially than the overall market,” CNBC reporter Bertha Coombs said during DiversityInc‘s event in 2017.

While these statistics are not unlike those of many companies, Nike promotes a facade. Nike’s mission for diversity and inclusion isn’t reflected in its employment and it is a major flaw in the company’s branding.

Through advertising and the use of professional female athletes, Nike promotes its workforce as inclusive and valuing diversity. One example of this is the recent commercial featuring pro tennis player Serena Williams, in an effort to inspire the public and impart the impression that Nike is inclusive of all genders and ethnicities.

Nike has championed off of black bodies since the dawn of their corporation, one of the most popular being Michael Jordan and his basketball career in the late 20th century. Much of Nike’s success was made possible by minorities and women, so to see that these groups are not being fairly represented in the workforce is alarming.

Nike needs to increase its efforts to hire and promote women and minorities. In order to compete in an increasingly diverse industry, Nike must focus on how to create a more inclusive workplace. To fix Nike’s company culture, current leaders need to be held responsible for representing all people. Women and minorities should be treated more fairly at work and this shift in attitude will have to begin in the upper ranks of the company.

Since Nike sponsors the University of Oregon, we as students and athletes should be concerned that our biggest supporter hasn’t done what they claim to. The University of Oregon has stressed for so long the importance of inclusivity, yet we have accepted millions of dollars from a company that has not upheld those standards. As students and members of the UO community, we should speak up and encourage Nike to move forward with plans to diversify their workforce and create a company culture that is respectful and representative of all people.

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