Across the globe, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are crucial areas for brands and retailers. To attain these, brands are taking various steps at individual level as well as associating with specific organisations. These collective efforts are also bringing in significant results.
Recently The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and PVH Corp. came up with the State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion report.
The CFDA is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1962 with a membership of 477 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewellery and accessory designers.
This research includes a survey of over 1,000 working industry professionals across 41 companies, 20 stakeholder interviews and three focus groups with students and emerging designers during Fall 2020.
The report is a definitive work of research and suggests next steps for the American fashion industry to be more representative and equitable in its workforce, talent pipeline and consumer base.
This study seeks to emphasise the experiences of black employees and industry voices, and other underrepresented, underserved and underprivileged communities across all industry disciplines and levels.
The CFDA and PVH advocate for measurable change to increase workplace opportunity for all through representation, retention and advancement of talent.
This report, which draws on research and analysis by McKinsey & Company, can be used as a framework to help advance the journey towards equality in organisations throughout the industry.
The report highlights the experiences and structural challenges of inequity in the industry. It says that 37 per cent of Black employees report having to supplement their income versus 23 per cent of white employees. Around 26 per cent employees of colours versus 1 per cent white employees express that their race/ethnicity has had a negative impact on receiving raises and promotions in the past. Particularly, Black (40 per cent) and Asian (27 per cent) employees say that.
The report has identified six key areas of opportunity: awareness, access, promotion, advocacy, compensation and belonging. Each of these areas is thoroughly explored and accompanied by data insights, personal narratives and steps for intervention.
Addressing these areas provides a framework for companies to quantify their culture’s strengths and opportunities for improvement; provides insight into actionable steps towards a future more reflective of our citizenry; and fosters a talent pipeline from underrepresented communities.
“The fashion industry, both in the US and worldwide, has historically struggled with opportunities and pipelines for Black and Brown talent. We need to collectively address and change this. Our work is key to identify, connect, support and nurture Black and Brown creatives and professionals in fashion,” said CaSandra Diggs, President of the CFDA.
The tragic and senseless acts of racial injustice in 2020, including the loss of all victims of racism in the US, as well as the wide-reaching economic impacts of COVID-19, have made this work even more critical.
“The inclusion and diversity challenges in the fashion industry are real. This important research not only confirms that; the learnings from it will also help guide the work towards positive and lasting change,” said Stefan Larsson, CEO, PVH Corp.
He further added that we have work to do at PVH, together with our larger industry; we have a collective responsibility to lean in and drive real impact. This is as important as any business strategy and speaks more broadly to who we are as human beings and the impact we can have on society.
As per the report, almost 60 per cent of respondents said that their companies have undertaken internal or external diversity, equity and inclusion actions, with four in five believing that the response is authentic. In addition, the majority of respondents (78 per cent) believe that their companies value the differences that people bring to the workplace.
The report also says that employees of colour only comprise 16 per cent of C-suite roles and 15 per cent of board seats, despite comprising 32 per cent of entry-level positions. In contrast, white men comprise more than half (54 per cent) of C-suite roles and the majority of board seats (72 per cent), despite only comprising 26 per cent of entry-level positions. 50 per cent of employees of colour report that a career in the fashion industry is not equally accessible to all qualified candidates, and almost one in four question the meritocracy of opportunities.
It is also pertinent to mention here that black employees report greater inaccessibility to the fashion industry (68 per cent) versus white employees (37 per cent).
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender queer (LGBTQ+) employees report greater inaccessibility to the fashion industry (51 per cent disagree) versus heterosexual employees (41 per cent).
Black employees report feeling less prepared for their first job search (38 per cent report that they were ‘not at all equipped’) versus white employees (19 per cent).
8 Things to Enact Change
- Audit your own assumptions and understand your own biases by embarking on a personal learning journey (hire DEI coach, do your own reading and research to learn more, connecting with others outside company/industry)
- Mentor and advocate for those who are different from you to ensure that you are contributing to a more inclusive support system (commit monthly coffee or video call, catch up with 2-3 who come from a different background)
- Be a senior leader representative for employee resource groups to provide resources and be a direct line of communication to other senior leaders (join ERG meetings and present issues and ideas on behalf of them to other senior leaders)
- Encourage diverse teams internally and externally to ensure everyone has equal access to career-developing opportunities (hire diverse vendors, aspire towards diverse internal project team)
- Say ‘Yes’ even when it’s hard on tough topics (improve compensation to equitable levels for all employees, pay interns a liveable wage) and make DEI part of everyday practice
- Ensure that products and external communications are inclusive (inclusive product lines with different colour shades, inclusive language in advertising, hiring diverse models to represent the brand)
- Reinforce business importance of DEI in internal communications regularly and consistently and ensure that managers and leaders have clear expectations laid out
- Invest and support industry groups with a mission to increase diversity