Adidas Vows Action on Minority, LGBTQ Issues at Company

Adidas is taking new steps to reassure its workforce that it takes seriously the latest claims of discrimination and diversity missteps at the company.

In response to FN’s report this week — which detailed the stories of LGBTQ, Asian and other minority employees who said they were disenfranchised by the brand — Kristin Parrott, Adidas’ SVP of human resources for North America, sent a letter to staff outlining some of the company’s latest plans to improve diversity and inclusion at its Portland, Ore., campus.

“I wanted to take a moment to address recent media reports regarding our culture and reaffirm our unequivocal commitment to fostering a respectful, equitable and inclusive environment for all Adidas employees,” the memo, viewed by FN, reads. “We know it’s crucial that we have and support a diverse workforce that represents a variety of ideas, strengths, interests and cultural backgrounds. At the same time, actions speak louder than words. We understand that we must demonstrate progress and not simply talk about it.”

Since November, when diversity challenges at the brand’s Portland HQ first surfaced, Adidas has faced multiple claims of discrimination against its minority employees.

“The people who are rising at the company are [predominantly] white males,” one current employee, who identifies as both Asian and LGBTQ, told FN recently. “I have requested mentorship meetings with senior leaders at the brand — whom I’ve often seen having these kinds of meetings with young white males in the cafeteria — but my meetings always end up being canceled.”

While the company declined to participate in FN’s recent coverage, it told employees on Thursday that it is “actively expanding and improving” its diversity and inclusion training. The internal memo stated that Adidas, so far, has trained more than 2,100 employees through the D&I program. It said it expects to train about 3,000 people total by the end of the year.

Speaking over the past few weeks on the condition of anonymity, several current and former Adidas employees had said they perceived a lack of support among senior leadership for the LGBTQ employee resource group — as well as other internal ERGs on campus.

For example, sources recounted that the LGBTQ support group, Proud to Play, hosted training on the gender identity spectrum last year, which was largely unattended by senior leaders on the Portland campus, despite the fact that flyers and companywide emails were sent out touting the event. Similarly, one African-American employee said he exited the minority ERG Progressive Soles after observing a lack of management support and presence at meetings.

In its company memo Thursday, Adidas said it is “deeply committed” to its ERGs — including Proud to Play, Progressive Soles and its Asian group, PACE — describing them as “essential partners in achieving a culture at Adidas where everyone can thrive.”

In the note, Parrott further pledged that the company will communicate more frequently with staffers on the progress of its D&I efforts and send “regular updates” on its three priority areas: Education & Awareness, Hiring & Recruiting and Growth & Development.

The company also encouraged employees to route feedback and questions to its Diversity and Inclusion team. At least one staffer had previously told FN that she was unable to share her concerns with the D&I team in the past because it did not handle individual complaints. (Adidas has clarified to FN today that its D&I team manages overall diversity strategy and is not responsible for managing individual employee concerns. Instead it said such concerns should be directed to its HR team.)

Parrott closed the memo by sharing the phone number to its anonymous company complaint hotline: “We want to ensure that anyone who has concerns feels their voice is heard,” she said.

 

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