Holding Up a Looking Glass to Diversity in Fashion

Jaime E. Love

IN THE MIRROR: Burberry chief executive officer Marco Gobbetti didn’t mince words: “We don’t have all the answers,” he said. “But we know that the step change we need to make is increasing representation at all levels of our company.”

While neither Gobbetti nor Burberry’s survey response articulated current numbers or defined targets, their absence read as reflective of a work in progress rather than evasion. “We have prioritized getting a complete picture of our employee population so we can make informed, meaningful commitments,” the survey response said, adding that Burberry will provide details on overall strategy in the coming months, “including a holistic and global D&I [diversity and inclusion] policy that will cement both resources and accountability on how we achieve greater inclusivity.”

The company spelled out two areas of focus: hiring diverse talent and heightening leadership and ownership of that process. The current talent acquisition process, including goals on representation, is under review.

“We are firmly committed to accelerating our progress in this respect,” Gobbetti said, “holding ourselves accountable, promoting deeper ally-ship and ushering in positive and lasting change, in line with our values and Thomas Burberry’s legacy.”

Evaluation of Burberry’s employee composition predates the killing by police of George Floyd. Gobbetti noted that more than a year ago, the company “started on a journey to educate ourselves and be more representative of the communities that inspire us.…We know we have a long way to go. As individuals, as an organization and as an industry, we must do more to create a culture of inclusion, equity and belonging.”

D&I initiatives include bifurcated training processes — unconscious bias training for all employees and inclusion training for leadership. Last year, Burberry established an Internal Diversity and Inclusion Council comprised of employees. The group meets formally three times a year in addition to ad-hoc consultations. An external six-person Cultural Advisory Council provides feedback on operations, programs and progress.

Regarding its talent identification methods, the company noted the need to “diversify our talent pipeline” within the company and as an industry, and to “challenge ourselves to ensure our hiring processes and short lists reflect our ambitions.” The company will now require “diverse short lists at the application stage and through the interview process.”

The company is also involved in educational work. One effort through the Burberry Foundation aims to “provide exposure to the creative industries to people who may not otherwise have had access.” Burberry Inspire, an in-school art and culture program, partners with organizations in Yorkshire [England] and New York. It will be assessed clinically by the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Program Support of the City University of New York, which is measuring its impact on “students’ hopes for the future, confidence, self-belief, critical thinking skills and other areas of growth.” Over the next five years, Burberry will also sponsor 50 scholarships for students from underrepresented communities.

Burberry’s statement stressed the company’s commitment to continuing difficult conversations around diversity, to holding itself accountable for making necessary changes and for closely monitoring results of its efforts. “We have to continue to make sure the conversations we are having aren’t limited to the short term,” it said.

CAPRI HOLDINGS LTD.

Employees: 16,000 worldwide; 7,200 in U.S.

U.S. employees: 40% white; 32% Hispanic/Latino; 12% Asian; 10% Black/African American; 4%, two or more races; 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native; 1% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander

Management: 75% white; 15% Asian; 5% Hispanic or Latino; 3%, two or more races; 2% Black or African American

Executive team: 4 members; 1 person of color, Daniel T. Purefoy

IN THE MIRROR: Capri Holdings ceo John Idol sees this fraught cultural moment as one of powerful possibility. “As an organization and as individuals, we have the opportunity to positively impact the future,” he said.

Diversity and inclusion are embedded in the DNA of each of Capri Holdings’ three brands [Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo]. We foster an inclusive environment where employees and customers of diverse backgrounds are welcomed, valued and celebrated,” Idol noted.

Black employees account for 10 percent of Capri’s overall employee population, and 2 percent of its management ranks. “We recognize that we have more work to do with diversity amongst our workforce,” Capri’s survey response said. “We are committed to hiring diverse talent across every function and region, and providing all employees with the necessary tools and training programs to thrive.” Essential to the process, Capri recently formed its Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, comprised of diverse members from across all brands. The company does not have quantifiable targets, but “is working diligently on short- and long-term impactful initiatives to further equality for our employees and the communities that we serve.” Those plans are works-in-progress, which Capri will release when ready.

Externally, the company has committed to the “Open to All” pledge and CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. Capri is donating to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and will contribute to other organizations to support diversity and inclusion. Capri Holdings was named a “2019 Best Employer for Diversity” by Forbes.

“We are continuing to work diligently with our global diversity and inclusion council on initiatives to foster greater equality for our employees and the communities that we serve,” Idol said. “We are committed to listening, learning and taking the necessary actions to support long-term positive change for the Black community.”

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CHANEL SA

THE NUMBERS

Employees: 28,000 worldwide, according to LinkedIn

 

IN THE MIRROR: “Diversity and inclusion is integral to who we are as a responsible and citizen employer,” a Chanel spokesperson said in a statement to WWD. The house discussed the work it is doing around that focus in broad strokes. It did not give numbers.

“We believe that data and quotas are not the only way of showing the importance of these issues,” it offered, while noting that laws on tracking ethnic and racial employment demographics differ from country to country. “[This] makes it very difficult for an international company like ours to report on these matters reliably at a companywide scale.”

The statement acknowledged that the killing of George Floyd by police and subsequent calls for social justice have intensified the need to heighten its diversity efforts. “The recent events in the U.S. have reinforced our determination to continue to address systemic racism and inequality, both within our company and in our communities,” it said. “We are committed to strengthening diversity and inclusion within our organization to ensure people are free to be themselves, that their differences are valued and empowered, and they have equal opportunity to achieve.”

Chanel made D&I a formal initiative in 2016, at the time focusing primarily on gender diversity. The company has since broadened its priorities, now also aiming “to increase diversity representation to better reflect the specific diversity challenges in each of our local markets/countries.…Each local entity sets its own objectives.” The company is working on “very tangible and regionally specific plans on diversity representation and inclusive culture, including conducting appropriate quantitative and qualitative analyses.”

In the U.S., Chanel recently launched a D&I task force including employees of color who contribute to action-planning. The company has strengthened recruitment actions, instituted unconscious bias training and established procedures aimed at increasing and retaining people of color. Over the past few years, such initiatives have led to an increased number of people of color in management positions, the statement said, without quantifying.

In addition, at the company’s January 2019 global executive committee meeting, it was decided that each region, division and global corporate function “would also address at least one other demographic/perspective that is underrepresented in the respective organization, taking into account local specificities.” While Chanel would not confirm that the chosen demographic in the U.S. is people of color and Black people specifically, it’s hard to fathom a more pressing issue. This local approach is “intended as a practical and tangible way to enhance the makeup of our organization and diversity of thought across the company,” but “does not mean other perspectives or demographics are not considered or valued.”

Externally, philanthropic efforts championing women cross over into Black communities. Fondation Chanel was established in 2011 for the economic and social betterment of women and girls around the world. In the U.S., it often supports programs focused on “on racial justice issues as a critical component of gender equality.” These include New York Fund for Girls and Young Women of Color and A New Way of Life Re-Entry, which aids previously incarcerated women. In addition, Chanel has committed $1 million toward establishment of a fund “supporting grassroots, people of color-led racial justice organizations that build the leadership of people of color.”

While Chanel “humbly recognizes” that its D&I initiatives must continue to evolve, it feels efforts already in play are a sound start. “By giving our people a voice and implementing actions around our processes and work environment, we are continually measuring and ensuring a culture that provides equal opportunity to contribute and succeed,” the statement said.

“The recent events that have taken place in the United States have further reinforced and accelerated our drive toward realizing the full spectrum of our strategy to enable meaningful change.”

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COTY INC.

THE NUMBERS

Employees: 20,000 worldwide

U.S. employees: 59.7% Caucasian; 17.2% Black; 12.5% Hispanic; 8.6% Asian; 1.6% mixed race; 0.4% American Indian/Pacific Islander

Management, director level and above: 20% from “a diverse group”; 2.9% Black

Data based on U.S. employees who have self-identified; 24.4% of Coty U.S. employees have not self-identified

Executive committee and senior leadership team: 11 members; 0 people of color

Board: 11 members; 1 Asian member, Justine Tam

 

IN THE MIRROR: A Coty Inc. spokesperson forwarded an internal letter sent on June 10 from its president of North America, Andrew Stanleick, to U.S. employees. It included the U.S. employment demographics (above), as posted on the beauty industry’s Pull Up for Change. “We do not yet have the diverse representation we would like, but we are taking action — and indeed, increasing our action — to realize a shared vision for a better, more inclusive and just future,” Stanleick said.

He revealed the launch of Change the Conversation, an internal education series on race and justice in America. He noted Coty’s Beauty That Lasts program, intended “to build a more inclusive business and society with greater leadership diversity,” and pointed out recent donations by individual brands to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter.

“Like others in our industry, we in the U.S. can do better to ensure our teams more adequately reflect the diversity of the consumers we serve and the sea of professionals who might lend their talents to our work. We will do better,” Stanleick wrote.

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THE ESTÉE LAUDER COS. INC.

THE NUMBERS

Employees: 77,000 worldwide

U.S. employees: 45% people of color

Executive director and above: 25% people of color; 3% Black

Executive officers: 14; 3 people of color: Deirdre Stanley (Black); Tracey T. Travis (Black); Carl Haney (Latinx)

Board: 16 members; 3 people of color: Wei Sun Christenson (Asian); Richard Parsons (Black); Jennifer Tejada (Asian American)

IN THE MIRROR: The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. was early to recognize the need for formal attention to D&I; it established the position of chief inclusion and diversity officer in 2004. Marilu Marshall holds the post and reports to executive chairman William P. Lauder. The Global Diversity Council, co-chaired by Lauder and ceo Fabrizio Freda, is comprised of 16 senior executives charged with oversight of D&I strategies. Individual brands have inclusion and diversity champions.

“We are proud of the overall progress and commitment we have made to inclusion and diversity,” the survey response said. “But we also recognize that we have much more work to do in order to accomplish greater results.” To that end, since the killing of George Floyd — and after an internal dustup surrounding board member Ronald Lauder — the group has committed to numerous concrete employment goals.

A spokesperson forwarded several memos from “Offices of William P. Lauder and Fabrizio Freda,” sent earlier this month to all employees in the U.S. and Canada. One addressed employee outrage over Ronald Lauder’s contributions to the Donald Trump campaign. “We are both keenly aware that we come from a place of privilege…and cannot truly understand what it feels like to be marginalized,” the chairman and ceo wrote. They committed to “redoubling our efforts and continuing our work in this space.” At the same time, they affirmed the right of all individuals in the company, Lauders included, to make political donations as they choose, and that such donations do not represent the company’s views.

Three days later, June 8, William Lauder and Freda sent a memo titled, “Our Commitment to Take Action.” It sets forth various goals and key performance indicators subject to semiannual review. Among the areas under study: the diversity quotient of the company’s workforce as well as its supplier network. Of the latter, Lauder and Freda pledged to “leverage our power to support Black-owned businesses.” Over the next three years, the company will “at least double” spending on sourcing ingredients, packaging materials and supplies from Black-owned businesses. It will also ensure that its brands “meet the diverse shade and formula needs of the Black community and our Black consumers, as appropriate by market.”

Regarding its workforce, the Lauder-Freda memo commits the company to creating equal career development and advancement opportunities for Black employees in the U.S., including leadership training and mentorship programs with senior executives, and to “hold ourselves accountable for creating a workforce that is more representative and responsive to people of all backgrounds.” Black candidates will be identified and considered for all senior executive positions.

Before Black employees can grow within the Lauder companies, they have to make it in the door. Lauder and Freda pledged to achieve U.S. population parity for Black employees across all levels over the next five years, and will require diverse slates of candidates, internal and external, for all positions at the executive director level and above.

Over the next year, the beauty group will double the number of diverse recruiting firms it engages and forge stronger recruiting partnerships with organizations such as the National Black MBA Association. It will continue to engage Jopwell, a start-up that connects companies with candidates from underrepresented groups.

The company will double its recruiting efforts from historically Black colleges and universities, a network from which it already recruits. Last year it participated in career fairs at Spelman College, Morehouse College, Howard University and Clark Atlanta University. Lauder is the first beauty-industry corporate sponsor of Howard’s 21st Century Advantage Program, through which Fortune 500 companies “adopt” undergraduates to aid their professional development.

In their June 8 memo, Lauder and Freda also articulated hiring commitments beyond its full-time employee sphere. In the U.S. and other markets “where appropriate,” the company will increase its hiring of front-of-camera Black talent for campaigns. It will also engage more Black creative talent behind the camera, and “require input from Black professionals or consumers in the development of concepts.”

The survey response noted updates to unconscious bias training procedures, as well as the company’s $10 million pledge over the next three years to support social justice organizations. “As a company,” the response said, “we will be stronger advocates, we will contribute more funds, we will hold ourselves and our leaders accountable and we will continue to make the structural changes necessary to accurately mirror our values. Some of our actions will be immediate, others will take time, but we will ensure that all are lasting and impactful.”

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GAP INC.

THE NUMBERS

Employees: 129,000 worldwide

U.S. employees: 44% white; 25% Hispanic; 18% Black; 7% Asian; 5% other

Headquarters: 54% white; 10% Hispanic; 4% Black; 27% Asian; 5% other

Distribution/call centers: 47% white; 19% Hispanic; 23% Black; 9% Asian; 2% other

Store employees: 42% white; 27% Hispanic; 20% Black; 6% Asian; 5% other

Store leadership: 70% white; 17% Hispanic; 9% Black; 3% Asian; 2% other

Executive board: 10 members; 1 Indian member, Sonia Syngal

Board: 14 members; 2 people of color, Sonia Syngal (Indian); Jorge P. Montoya (Spanish)

 

IN THE MIRROR: There’s much to be said for plain speaking, especially when you’ve got much to say. “You can find our current diversity stats here, and information about our board here,” a Gap Inc. spokesperson wrote, indicating two links on the company’s web site. He noted that over the past two years, Gap has made a deliberate effort to diversify the makeup of its board and that two current members (Sonia Syngal and Jorge P. Montoya) identify as people of color. “The board is committed to improving those numbers further,” he said. Syngal is ceo of Gap Inc.

While that effort started a while back, the global calls for social justice forced Gap Inc. to “take a hard look…to ensure we are doing our part in dismantling racism and discrimination, and that we are creating and engaging with the most diverse workforce possible.”

Now Gap is listening, learning and taking immediate action. On June 17, the company posted to its corporate web site a new set of commitments, crisply articulated. On “Transparency,” Gap has reported overall race and ethnicity data since 2013, and will begin immediately to share additional data on how employees identify their race and ethnicity, including at the store and headquarters levels. Gap will also publish an annual Equality and Belonging Report.

On “Representation,” the retailer stated that although 55 percent of its U.S. employees identify as people of color, that number alone isn’t good enough. The company pledged to double the number of Black and Latinx employees at all levels in U.S. headquarters offices by 2025, with particular attention given to job functions that make and market products, “to ensure we are creating for all, with all.” Also by 2025, Gap will increase by 50 percent the number of Black employees in U.S. “Store Leader” capacities. And because “hiring the right talent isn’t enough,” the company will strive to foster “a deep sense of belonging throughout our end-to-end employee experience.”

On “Inclusive Creativity,” Gap is determined to express D&I throughout its product range. That requires “decision-makers who reflect the diversity of our customer base and help us reach new customers.” One dynamic employee on the case: Bahja Johnson, who two years ago cofounded The Color Proud Council, a product inclusivity initiative, its mission to ensure that the in-house product life cycle remains inclusive from design through marketing. The council operates across all Gap brands.

On “Black Voices,” Gap said it will work with more Black and Latinx talent and partners in messaging and marketing.

Finally, in order to make retail experiences “Open to All,” the company pledged to “show up and stand up in a bigger way to authentically serve all of our customers and communities,” the memo said, a pledge that includes anti-racism training as part of ongoing employee and customer-belonging initiatives.

Externally, in February, Gap hosted the Product Inclusion Summit for attendees of various industries. The company is a sponsor of Harlem’s Fashion Row, a partnership with new developments percolating. The children’s brand Janie and Jack has also partnered with HFR, on a collaboration launching this fall.

In terms of recruiting, Gap participates in diversity-focused symposia, career fairs and on-campus events, including outreach at historically Black colleges and universities. It also attends conferences of the National Association of Black Accountants and the Association of Latino Professionals for America. In addition, an internship program, Gap Foundation’s This Way Ahead is aimed at helping young people ages 16 to 24 facing “barriers to employment” develop professional skills. Its goal: By 2025, 5 percent of new entry-level store hires will be program graduates.

This incomplete litany of Gap Inc. efforts indicates dedication and long-term commitment. “Since our founding,” the spokesperson offered, “Gap Inc. has pledged to do more than sell clothes, with our teams and brands working to be a force for good.”

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GIORGIO ARMANI SPA

THE NUMBERS

None supplied

IN THE MIRROR: Giorgio Armani himself sent a commentary to WWD in response to George Floyd’s killing, resulting in demands for social justice. “The color of someone’s skin, ethnicity, social background, age, not to mention sexual, political and religious orientation for me do not make, nor have ever made, any difference,” Armani said. “The commitment to act free [from] any form of discrimination when it comes to hiring and career advancement is deeply rooted in the Armani Group’s value system.”

Still, Armani acknowledged that he and the Armani Group may now have to articulate more granularly the company’s D&I initiatives. “I understand that, in light of the current situation and widespread ignorance and discrimination, we may need to define this aspect more explicitly and openly to the outside,” Armani offered, without providing specifics. “I am willing to take this further step, in order to express myself more clearly.”

Calling diversity “an asset to be nurtured” and inclusion “a moral and professional duty,” he maintained that “anyone can move up the ranks, at any time; individual abilities and initiatives are the way for this to happen.”

The company did not provide detailed demographics on its employee composition, the collection of which many countries, including Italy, forbid within their borders. Armani did note that in America, one of his group’s “first and most important branches,” the percentage of Black and Latinx employees is more than 50 percent, and includes members of the management team. “In Milan, Armani noted, “we have Black executives who report directly to me. We do not tolerate discrimination because what I am looking for is talent, in every area, and talent knows no color nor race. This principle is embedded in every aspect of the company.…We can always improve, of course.”

Armani said operating internationally demands a global vision made up of different ethnic groups and cultures, and that requires “relying on local workforces and ensuring a healthy mix of cultures, from which the company benefits immensely.”

Yet despite the Armani Group’s global scope, Armani said he views “all my employees, in Italy and abroad, as a family I have to take care of, whether they are part of the management or the sales force in the store. I respect everyone equally.”

Still, Armani acknowledged room for improvement. “I am aware of that, at all times,” he said. “Collectively, as a civil society and as a fashion system, we must strive to eliminate the exclusivity and lack of openness of our work environments. I have always worked in this direction and will continue to do so with renewed commitment.”

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HERMÈS INTERNATIONAL SA

THE NUMBERS:

Employees worldwide: 15,000, according to LinkedIn

 

IN THE MIRROR: Hermès sent a statement to WWD and referred as well to the company’s 2019 annual report. “At Hermès, we strongly reject and condemn all forms of racism, discrimination and inequality…” the statement read. “Diversity of people and talent is at the foundation of the house’s identity, reflected in our creativity and international presence.” The Hermès code of ethics “promotes equality, active promotion of diversity and career development, with zero tolerance for all forms of discrimination,” while mandatory corporate training seeks to confront issues of discrimination and unconscious bias.

“The recent events of racial injustice and the apparent systemic inequality that Black Americans experience demands urgent action to eradicate any form of racism in our society, but in particular if it is structural,” the statement said. “We join others around the world in saying, unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter.” The memo pledged that Hermès will continue to take “tangible action” in its local markets, without discussing the specifics, including employment targets. “Hiring, mentoring, helping, educating, nurturing and caring will help bring the change that is needed.…We solidly make this commitment not just for today, but for tomorrow and all the days to come as in-depth transformation requires time, work and relentless effort.”

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KERING

THE NUMBERS: 

Employees: 38,000 worldwide

Executive committee: 12 members; 0 people of color

Board: 13 members; 2 people of color, Tidjane Thiam (Black); Jean Liu (Asian)

Kering Americas: Employees: 62% people of color

Recruitment: In 2019, people of color were 61% of total hires.

Senior management: 21% people of color. An increase of 36% minority representation in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of all women in senior management rose 18%. The number of women of color doubled.

 

IN THE MIRROR: At Kering, corporate citizenship is as core to the business as Gucci handbags. Known for its global leadership in environmental initiatives, the group is focusing just as acutely on workplace equality, setting an overarching goal that’s far from modest.

“Our aim is to reimagine the diversity and inclusion paradigm,” said Kalpana Bagamane Denzel. Her job title alone — chief diversity, inclusion and talent officer — telegraphs that Kering prioritizes diversity and inclusion not as offshoots of talent recruitment, acquisition and development, but as equal, interdependent pillars.

“I see my role at Kering as mission critical,” said Bagamane Denzel, who assumed her post in October. “An integral step is to focus on all aspects of the employee experience, from selection and integration to development and mobility.”

Like most other non-U.S.-based companies queried, Kering noted that some countries, including its “home countries” of France and Italy, prohibit the accumulation of employment statistics based on ethnicity. Unlike most European respondents, the company acknowledged that the U.S. has no such restrictions, and provided some Kering Americas figures. Overall, 62 percent of the U.S. workforce identifies as people of color. The number in senior management has seen a strong recent increase, particularly among women. A spokesperson called those numbers “an incomplete part of the picture since this year is just halfway,” while stressing the importance of transparency. “It was relevant for us to share the employee data of the country that has ignited the much-needed global conversation about diverse representation,” she said. She also pointed out that earlier this month, two people of color were elected to the group’s board: Tidjane Thiam, who is Black, and Jean Liu, who is Asian.

While Kering targeted its survey response to the primary line of questioning — internal diversity — it noted, as well, donations on behalf of its brands to the NAACP and Campaign Zero, an organization focused on reducing police violence in the United States.

Kering sees diversity as “multifactorial,” encompassing cultural and ethnic representation, gender, age, LGBTQ and those with disabilities, and is working to increase employment across those groups. It has made particular strides toward gender equality, in leadership positions and on the executive board as well as across the general workforce. A major goal now, “with our robust diversity and inclusion strategy,” said the spokesperson, “is to increase representation of Black employees and other minority groups.”

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