This Is How Footwear Companies Can Bridge the Racial Hiring Gap

A number of footwear companies are trying to make themselves far more racially diverse. But many are finding that to do it right, they have to have a comprehensive plan that includes buy-in from top leaders, measurable goals and consistent training programs.

Macy’s Inc. is expected to launch an initiative this month called Mosaic, a leadership development program aimed at reducing attrition at the mid-career level for its diverse talent, as well as equip managers with the tools to have meaningful conversations about diversity.

Shawn Outler, the retailer’s chief diversity officer, said at the FN CEO Summit in Miami on Monday that the company of roughly 130,000 is already very diverse, but at the midtier management level, its diversity numbers “drop off.”

The more programs that companies put into action, the better, said Tami Roman, actress and designer of her eponymous label.

When Roman was looking to launch her own line, she said it took dozens of emails just to get a meeting with a fashion business that could potentially serve as a collaborator. She said it is not an easy process for people of color to enter the business.

“There weren’t any programs,” she said.

Tami Roman
Tami Roman at the FN CEO Summit.
CREDIT: Johan Cruz

While putting formal mechanisms in place does help, there are other subtle things companies might be doing that could turn off potential candidates.

Kyle Rudy, senior vice president of Kirk Palmer Associates, told the story of one job candidate who was interviewing with a firm only to reject it after he picked up on several clues: The company had on a news channel in the waiting area that didn’t align with his views, and hiring managers he met with were all white men.

“When someone walks into your company, what do you want them to feel?” said Rudy. “Policies and procedures are great, but authentic conversations are more important.”

Matt O’Toole, president of Reebok, agreed.

He said the biggest challenge for his Boston-based firm is to make sure each member of the company culture “feels like they belong and that they want to stick around.”

One way to make sure employees want to “stick around” is by having consistent messages through both product and marketing.

Outler said Macy’s is trying to promote a more diverse workforce by the end of 2021, but its efforts go way beyond just hiring. It is also creating more multicultural marketing campaigns and commercials.

“Make sure your content is out there often and that it has a certain, consistent look to it,” advised Roman.

Watch the video below to see how fellow FN CEO Summit speaker Allbirds is winning e-commerce:

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