VICE Media suspends 2 top executives following sexual allegations

VICE Media has placed president Andrew Creighton and chief digital officer Mike Germano on leave, following a New York Times report last year on sexual misconduct within the company.

The report stated that there were four settlements involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against VICE employees, with Creighton being one of them. More than two dozen women said they experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct, including forced kisses and groping.

According to a company memo seen by Marketing, which was sent to employees from COO and CFO Sarah Broderick, the company is investigating the allegations against Creighton and Germano. In the meantime, both Creighton and the company have agreed that he remain out of the office on leave. The memo added that both men were the only two employees accused in the New York Times story who were still with VICE.

Broderick also wrote that all VICE employees - full-time and freelance - are required to participate in "mandatory sexual harassment training". "These trainings are to ensure awareness and understanding of VICE’s commitment to a workplace that promotes equal employment opportunities and is free of discrimination and inappropriate conduct," Broderick wrote.

She added that "[VICE needs] more women and diversity throughout the organisation". As such, the company is making "visible changes to its leadership" and will continue to add women and individuals of diverse backgrounds to its ranks. This will cover the entire organisation including content, marketing and sales.

"Changing an organization takes time and doesn’t happen over night. VICE has committed to 50/50 male/female at every level across the organization by 2020 and pay parity by the end of 2018," Broderick stated.

Creighton also apologised for the situation in an earlier statement to the New York Times, adding that he holds himself and others accountable in creating a "respectful" workplace environment. Germano also issued an earlier statement saying that he does not believe the allegations are reflective of the company's culture.

VICE declined to comment further on Marketing's queries. Last November, the company expanded into Asia Pacific by making Singapore its regional headquarters. The team is led by CEO of VICE Asia Pacific Hosi Simon, and will serve as a content hub offering the full scale of VICE services. This includes complete production capabilities, locally staffed editorial content, and creative services through Virtue Worldwide, VICE’s creative arm.

(Read also: VICE hires former Discovery CFO in dual role to jump-start APAC operations)

The issue of sexual harassment is not new to the ad world. Last October, IPG chairman and CEO Michael Roth came out against workplace harassment by issuing an internal memo titled “A Workplace Free from Harassment”. The memo stated that IPG has a “zero-tolerance policy for all types of harassment”. Roth encouraged employees who have been victims of sexual harassment to make a report “without fear of reprisal”.

In a study done in the USA last year, 4A’s found that majority of women who participated in the study had experienced sexual harassment at some point during their careers. From overly sexualised depiction of women in ads to sexual harassment in the workplace, women have been voicing out their experiences from across the ad industry globally.

Ad industry veteran Cindy Gallop also called for an “end the Harvey Weinsteins of our industry once and for all” in a Facebook post. According to an article on CNBC, she says she has received emails from all over the world regarding the matter.