Back in October, a former Levi Strauss brand president made waves in an interview in which she accused her colleagues in corporate America of succumbing to a “corporate wokeness” that is ruining America’s business culture by shifting the focus from customers to left-wing special interests.
Jennifer Sey knows firsthand. The lifelong Democrat and mother of four children, who now says she feels politically homeless, was pushed out at Levi’s in 2021 for publicly questioning the shutting down of schools in California early in the COVID pandemic—on Fox News no less. Sey believes the drawn-out school closures did more harm than good for school kids.
Many of her colleagues were incensed, and Levi’s CEO Charles Bergh told her that her public statements were “untenable” with continuing at the San Francisco-based company she had served for more than two decades. She had been considered a CEO-in-waiting. She turned down a $1 million severance that required a nondisclosure agreement. Previously, she had publicly supported liberal causes with no objections from the company, she says.
Sey’s situation is indicative of a corporate culture in which large, publicly traded companies have largely caved to radical activists. Wokeness—generally defined as awareness and activism for leftist positions on “justice” regarding race, sex, gender, abortion and the environment—has become a must-have accessory for many CEOs.
Numerous large companies are supporting the big abortion lobby or covering travel costs for employees seeking abortion, opposing voter reform laws as inherently “racist,” or trumpeting the politically correct views of the LGBTQ movement.
Franklin Graham, in an Oct. 26 Facebook post, lauded Sey’s courage in standing up for her views and warned of the dangers of woke ideology run amok.
“In today’s world,” Franklin wrote, “we see banks, insurance companies, and corporations cutting off people—even celebrities and government officials—who won’t go along with their socialist woke ideals.
“Can you believe that it has gotten so bad that a bank could inform you that you can no longer have your account in their institution because you are too conservative, disagree with their agenda, or maybe because you support a certain political candidate not of their liking? This is happening. And we’d better get a grip on it in this country before it’s too late.”
Sey is far from the first high-level executive to get canceled for drifting from woke orthodoxy. Back in 2014, Brendan Eich, co-founder and former CEO of the tech company Mozilla, was forced out amid what USA Today described at the time as “outrage” after it was discovered that Eich had, six years earlier, given $1,000 to support a California referendum to ban gay marriage.
Sey and Eich are two prominent examples, but for anyone with any management influence in most large corporations, the politically correct line must be toed—or else, says Scott Shepard, director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR). The NCPPR buys shares in hundreds of companies in an effort to hold corporate boards accountable.
In many of the Fortune 500 boardrooms and at large banks and investment houses, many corporate leaders are—at the very least—willing to go along in order to avoid being called out by the likes of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Sierra Club, Black Lives Matter or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The trading giant NASDAQ went so far as to mandate that corporations doing business with them meet NASDAQ-prescribed quotas on their corporate boards for racial, gender and sexual minorities, which the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved.
Shepard says NASDAQ’s requirement is illegal and the SEC’s approval of it is way beyond its mission to oversee trading regulations. The NCPPR has filed a lawsuit against NASDAQ over the policy.
Groups such as HRC, known as the nation’s most powerful LGBTQ special interest group, have driven this trend toward wokeness. HRC has a corporate index that rates the nation’s corporations on their adherence to what HRC deems important—not merely LGBTQ issues but a broad span of left-wing endeavors.
“Remember,” Shepard told Decision, “HRC isn’t a gay and lesbian organization. It’s a hard left organization that doesn’t represent all people who are LGBTQ. It just represents those who are hard left.
“These activists first sought nondiscrimination and tolerance, and then they moved on to demanding that everyone who disagrees with them is dis-tolerated, shunned.”
HRC has an extensive list of “platinum,” “gold,” “silver” and “bronze” corporate sponsors who have gotten on board with its agenda. HRC’s website lists corporate supporters by support level—platinum partners such as Amazon, American Airlines and Coca-Cola, all the way down to mere bronze partners like Bank of America, PepsiCo, Lincoln Financial and Whirlpool.
The darkness in corporate America makes Christ’s mandate in Matthew 5:14 to be the light of the world especially timely for Christians.
Michael Brown, a Christian apologist and host of the syndicated broadcast “The Line of Fire,” says Christians in corporate America must always remember that “if we try to save our lives we will lose them.”
“Never has this been more important than today in the business world, where a radical leftist minority is imposing its will on tens of millions of employees,” Brown says. “Many of them see that the emperor has no clothes, but they are afraid to speak up because of the fear of consequences.
“The key is for everyone to speak up together, respectfully and with dignity, but without fear, determined to do what is right because it is right. Millions of God-honoring people cannot be ignored or silenced.” ©2022 BGEA