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News Organizational Misbehavior

Nike Releases Gender Equality Ad While All-Male Executives Stop Payments, Disallow Maternity Leave

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Nike released its “Dream With Us” advertisement on Monday. It’s a video showing girls and women running toward their athletic goals and dreams, complete with inspirational music and questions like “Will you be the generation who ends gender inequality?”

But the advertisement has attracted strong pushback after Olympic runner and three-time U.S. national champion Alysia Montaño published an opinion piece for the New York Times detailing her and other female athletes’ discriminatory experiences becoming pregnant while sponsored by Nike.

“The four Nike executives who negotiate contracts for track and field athletes are all men,” Montaño wrote.

This lack of diversity is reflected in other areas of Nike’s leadership.

According to Nike’s website, there are seven white male executives and only two white female executives. Their board of directors is slightly more diverse but still majority male and white with

eight white men, three white women and three Black men.

Nike has not made progress in diversifying and strengthening their leadership team since DiversityInc reported in 2018 that Nike Inc.’s HR Chief Monique Matheson informed employees that the company has failed in both promoting and hiring women and minorities to senior-level positions.

Related Article: Nike’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion Leaves Amid Executive Scandal

“More than a dozen track athletes, agents and others familiar with the business describe a multi-billion-dollar industry that praises women for having families in public — but doesn’t guarantee them a salary during pregnancy and early maternity,” Montaño continued in her piece.

Montaño details the story of OlympianKara Goucher in her piece. Goucher had to resume training just a week after giving birth in 2010, was told by her doctor she had to choose between running120 miles each week or breastfeeding her son and then was told by Nike that they would stop her payments until she could race again. Goucher also had to leave her son seriously ill in the hospital just three months after his birth to run a race so she could get paid from Nike.

Montaño also wasn’t able to escape Nike’s ridiculous expectations. Montaño ran in the 2014 United States Championships while eight months pregnant but still had to beg Nike to get paid. During her high-risk pregnancy, she made more than 12 unpaid appearances for Nike and had to wait four months to even announce her pregnancy so that Nike could (conveniently for them) publish the news on Mother’s Day.

Women also lose health insurance from The United States Olympic Committee and the U.S.A. Track & Field but that insurance can be taken away if they aren’t at the top consistently. Both Montaño and Goucher lost their insurance when they were pregnant and new mothers.

Related Article: Nike Ad Touts Equality But Has None on Board, Executive Committee or Even its Ad Agency

Nike admitted that they have reduced sponsorship payments for their pregnant athletes but claimed that the policies were changed in 2018 so that women are no longer “penalized.” And yet, Nike wouldn’t say whether or not these supposed new policies were actually in athletes’’ contracts.

For good reason, Montaño points out in her op-ed. A Nike contract for that was shared anonymously with the New York Times showed that Nike can still reduce an athlete’s pay “for any reason” because of performance and there are no protections or exceptions for childbirth or pregnancy and maternity.

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