This week, it was revealed that a brand once thought to represent femininity for millions of women is in fact underpinned by a culture of ingrained misogyny. Behind the curtains, two powerful men presided over a culture of bullying and sexual harassment, according to interviews with over 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents (as reported in The New York Times).
Victoria’s Secret’s profits have been falling steadily for a while now, with shares of parent company L Brands falling 75% since their peak in 2015. This recent revelation sends a clear message – no industry or business is immune to the consequences of toxic workplace culture today.
What are the 3 major learnings we can take away from Victoria Secret’s fall from grace:
- Values are more than just a nice to have – one of L Brands’ core values is about “doing what is right […] when no one is watching”. An organization’s values are meaningless and can even be detrimental if the company is not fully committed to living and breathing them – at all and every level, as well as with internal and external stakeholders, consultants and clients alike.
- Mind the trust gap – trust in organizations is at an all time low according to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer. For businesses looking to thrive or even stay alive in our current climate, they must adhere to the highest standards of trust both internally within the organization and in the promises they make their customers or clients. Victoria Secret’s recent campaign on the front of its website about “self-love this Valentine’s Day” is miles away from the demeaning treatment of the very women who are meant to represent the brand.
- No industry, business or individual is immune – from the Royal Family to some of the world’s most influential and forward-looking organizations; no business, individual or industry today is immune to the collective spirit of activism. Toxic cultures and misalignment with core values and ethical principles are being surfaced in increasingly public and detrimental ways. It’s been known for a while now that Victoria’s Secret is stuck in the past, but this recent revelation is likely to impact every aspect of the business’ future.
We believe the success of future organizations lies in its ability to build and maintain high standards of trust both internally and externally.
Neta Meidav is co-founder and CEO of Vault Platform, the trusttech company disrupting workplace misconduct reporting and resolution. Neta worked as a senior adviser to the UK Government for over ten years and is a knowledgeable resource on solutions to the problem of harassment and bullying in the workplace.