The Armoury What's new with Baltimore sports apparel maker Under Armour

Report: Women question Under Armour culture that until recently allowed employees to expense strip club visits

Under Armour fostered a culture that many women found demeaning, including allowing employees to expense visits to strip clubs, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper reported that the Baltimore-based retailer sent an email earlier this year alerting employees that they were no longer permitted to use their corporate cards to pay for strip club, gambling and other adult entertainment.

Strip club visits — including some attended by CEO Kevin Plank — with athletes and co-workers “were symptomatic of practices women at Under Armour found demeaning,” according to the Journal, which cited interviews with more than a dozen mostly anonymous current and former employees and executives.

In addition, the newspaper’s investigation found that “some top male executives violated company policy by behaving inappropriately with female subordinates” and that women were invited to an “annual company event based on their attractiveness to appeal to male guests” — a method referred to as “stocking the pond,” according to the report.

An Under Armour representative provided a statement in response to questions from The Baltimore Sun:

“We have addressed these serious allegations of the past and will continue to address workplace behavior that violates our policies,” according to the statement. “Inappropriate behavior that challenges our values or violates our policies is unacceptable — and will not be tolerated. We are committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace.”

In a letter to employees, Plank and company President Patrik Frisk said of the Wall Street Journal report: “This was tough to read. This is not the culture we envision for Under Armour.”

“We believe that there is systemic inequality in the global workplace and will embrace this opportunity to accelerate the ongoing meaningful cultural transformation that is already underway at Under Armour,” the letter read. “We can and will do better.”

Last year The Baltimore Sun reported that complaints about a “male culture” at Under Armour were frequently posted on the jobs site Glassdoor, where the company generally gets positive reviews as a workplace.

Three former Under Armour employees told The Baltimore Sun that the scarcity of women in the upper echelon was noticeable. The former employees, who worked at varying levels at the company’s headquarters, had spoken on condition of anonymity because they did not want to hurt their careers.

One woman expressed a sense of women being unable to crack into the company’s inner sanctum. She also said she was struck by the tone at Plank’s annual Preakness-eve parties, hosted at his Baltimore County horse farm for VIP guests, but attended by some Under Armour employees as part of a “hospitality weekend” to promote the company’s brand and the city.

That year the party featured a cigar deck and young women in cutoff jeans and matching tank tops who greeted visitors and hopped up on the bars to dance to live music.

The company said the party, held for the 10th time last year, is designed to appeal to a variety of tastes, with musical acts, hot-air balloon rides, a pick-pocket artist and lawn games.

The Journal’s report detailed the same party, calling the women “go-go dancers.”

Plank did not hold the party this year, citing Under Armour’s focus on becoming “operationally efficient,” the company said.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/dougdonovan

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