Signs of Progress: 7 Fashion Companies That Now Have a CDO

Over the past couple years, as the #MeToo movement has taken hold, diversity and inclusion has been pushed to the forefront of industry conversations.

As a result, many companies have turned their attention toward the treatment as well as advancement of minority talent. Some have overhauled their D&I initiatives and introduced new campaigns in the wake of public controversy — and an increasing number have taken the added step of hiring dedicated diversity leaders to stem cultural issues muddying the workplace.

Here, firms that have invested in chief diversity officers — or those who possess similar roles and/or responsibilities.

Chanel

In mid-July, Chanel named its first-ever global head of diversity and inclusion: Fiona Pargeter, who joined the luxury fashion house from Swiss bank UBS, where she served in a similar role for its Europe, the Middle East and Africa operations. Chanel explained that its D&I initiatives had previously been spearheaded within its People and Organization department but created the role to help spur those ongoing efforts. Pargeter’s recruitment, the firm said in a statement, is “a sign of our commitment to D&I and its importance to the house.”

Gucci

A couple of weeks after Pargeter’s appointment, Gucci hired Renée E. Tirado as its global head of diversity, equity and inclusion. It was part of the brand’s recent efforts to improve diversity internally following a series of missteps that included marketing an $800 “Indy Full Turban” resembling a religious article of clothing for Sikhs in May and an $890 balaclava sweater that consumers said looked like blackface iconography last February. The company also formed in mid-March the Changemakers Council — of which Harlem native and storied designer Dapper Dan is a member — to assist in its long-term D&I action plan that includes a $1.5 million scholarship program and investments in community-based programs in North America.

H&M

H&M selected Annie Wu as its global leader of diversity and inclusiveness in mid-January 2018 after dealing with the blowback of advertising on its website a hoodie with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” on a black child. “The recent incident was entirely unintentional, but it demonstrates so clearly how big our responsibility is as a global brand,” it shared on social media. “Our commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine, therefore we have appointed a global leader in this area to drive our work forward.”

Kering

In October, Kering — parent to Gucci — tapped Kalpana Bagamane Denzel as its chief diversity, inclusion and talent officer. “It is our commitment to take practical action to offer all our employees a working environment that is inclusive, open and stimulating,” chief people officer Béatrice Lazat said in a statement. The fashion conglomerate was ranked 10th out of 7,000 companies in last year Refinitiv Diversity and Inclusion Index.

Macy’s

In October 2018, Macy’s made a bold statement in naming its first chief diversity officer, Shawn Outler — preceding several other fashion firms who have since added CDOs. Less than a year after the headlining hire, the retailer announced a “five-part approach” its biggest D&I objectives that includes a requirement for 50% representation of gender/gender identity, ethnicity, age, size and disabled persons in its advertising by 2020; 30% ethnic diversity at the senior director level and above by 2025; and a plan to achieve diverse supplier spend of at least 5% by 2021. Outler — who was previously EVP of its licensed businesses, food services and multicultural initiatives before taking on the CDO role — has also continued to highlight a minority-focused development program she started at the company nearly 10 years ago: The Workshop at Macy’s, which is designed to nurture and support minority- and women-owned businesses.

Nike

In what many have viewed as its own #MeToo reckoning, Nike saw a wave of about a dozen executive departures amid criticisms of its workplace culture in 2018. The company admitted that it had fallen short in promoting women and people of color. Following the exit of Antoine Andrews, formerly the VP of diversity and inclusion who was part of the exodus that year, the Swoosh that April selected Kellie Leonard to fill the role. The position was elevated to the C-suite, making the 15-year Nike veteran the first chief diversity and inclusion officer at the firm.

Prada

Prada announced in February that artist and activist Theaster Gates and award-winning writer, director and producer Ava DuVernay will co-chair its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. The move came just two months after the brand faced backlash after many deemed that some of its animal-like figurines and charms in stores and store windows evoked blackface. “Prada is committed to cultivating, recruiting and retaining diverse talent to contribute to all departments of the company,” said Miuccia Prada, co-chief executive officer with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, and lead creative director of the luxury brand.

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