Signet Jewelers Ltd. has tapped Virginia Drosos as its new chief executive officer in the wake of highly publicized sexual harassment claims implicating executives.
Drosos, a Signet board member since 2012 and a former Procter & Gamble executive, will take up the role Aug. 1. She succeeds Mark Light, who became ceo in 2014 and has worked for Signet and its subsidiary Sterling Jewelers for 35 years.
Board chairman Todd Stitzer said Light has decided to retire “due to health reasons.”
The jewelry company has lately been seeing sales decline, and its stock fell 1.7 percent to $58.88 Monday morning. In recent months, the stock has been trading at levels not seen since 2013.
During Light’s tenure, he oversaw brand partnerships with actor Jane Seymour and jewelry designer Neil Lane, as well as the acquisition of jeweler Zales.
“Given the company’s positive direction and my need to address some health issues, the board and I agreed that it is a good time for a transition,” Light said.
In discussing her new position, Drosos said she’s looking to grow Signet into a brand “focused on bridal, digital and women’s fashion.”
The ceo change comes about three months after Signet tapped Barbara Jones, a former federal judge with the Southern District of New York and a current partner with Bracewell LLP, to carry out a “thorough review” of Signet’s corporate policies surrounding equal opportunity and workplace expectations.
When asked if Light’s departure was related to the review, a company spokesman only reiterated that Light’s retirement is due to “health reasons.”
“While Mark’s health condition is not life threatening, it is serious,” the spokesman said. “It has required multiple hospitalizations and a couple of surgical procedures. It will require time and attention to ensure complete recovery.”
The review stems from declarations made in 2013 by about 250 male and female workers of Sterling that recounted numerous instances of sexual harassment by managers and executives.
The statements were made as part of ongoing arbitration accusing Sterling of denying women higher pay and promotions.
Although the declarations were under seal until February, The Washington Post revealed detailed accounts by female former Signet employees involved in the arbitration of incidents in the Nineties and early Aughts when they witnessed others being, or were themselves subject to being, “groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed,” among other incidents.
Counsel for the plaintiffs, Joseph Sellers, said he and the class of employees “look forward to the new ceo making long-needed improvements” for women working for Signet.
“We continue to hear from women who have complaint of mistreatment in the company,” Sellers said. “They deserve justice and future employees deserve to work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment.”
A group of women initially filed suit in 2008 against Sterling in New York federal court, but the case was moved to arbitration as a result of employment agreements.
While Signet has stressed that the arbitration, which includes approximately 69,000 female employees, does not currently include any formal claims of harassment, it’s nevertheless denied the claims and pointed to the company’s decades-old policies against harassment and discrimination.
In late March a group of investors sued the company, claiming it’s done little beyond “deny and downplay” the allegations until they received public attention after the declarations were released.
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