Fashion Is Tuning Into Diversity and Inclusion, But Some Signs Remain Garbled

LONDON — Fashion companies are becoming more diverse and inclusive, but they need to focus on promoting and retaining staff from underrepresented backgrounds or risk unraveling the efforts they’ve made over the past five years last year, according to a new report.

The report, carried out by non-profit organization Fashion Minority Alliance in partnership with ESG research company Blurred, is based on written surveys and interviews with around 75 people from different backgrounds, including freelancers and those working for multinational firms , and independent companies. .

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For the report, “The Road to Inclusivity: Is the Fashion Industry Moving in the Right Direction Towards an Inclusive Culture?,” FMA and Blurred asked about the extent of representation and inclusion in the workplace, with a focus on understanding and measuring inclusion across. the employee life cycle, from junior level positions to senior management.

The online survey of around 30 questions ran from September to November 2023, and participants had to work, or currently work, in the fashion and creative industries, and be from a diverse background or that they had different characteristics, as noted in the UK legislation. .

One of the big conclusions was that although companies “took the right approach to embedding inclusion and targeted representation into their culture and business practices, this did not equate to employees feeling a sense of belonging within the business.”

The report said 38 percent of respondents agreed that their company was “making sufficient progress toward a diverse and inclusive, that is authentic, workplace.”

He added that 42 percent agreed that “the senior leadership team has demonstrated commitment through visible actions to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.”

Despite that progress, respondents noted a “disconnect” between the firm’s forward-looking stance on equity and inclusion issues, and its ability to consistently bring that to life for employees.

The report showed that some people felt excluded because of their particular socio-economic background, and noted that underrepresented groups are often tasked with creating and maintaining inclusive practices while juggling their normal duties amid several overlapping crises and attention is drawn to them. .”

He suggested that companies can solve these issues by focusing on the “whole individual,” and not what they stand for.

That disconnect between companies’ intentions and day-to-day behavior also harms companies’ ability to retain and promote talent.

The report said that while companies have made efforts to “introduce diversity into the industry, often at the junior or senior level, there is little focus on how to sustain, motivate and foster a sense of belonging that encourages push through the middle towards. seniority.”

Veronica Patton-Cemm, consulting director at Blurred, the London agency that carried out the research.Veronica Patton-Cemm, consulting director at Blurred, the London agency that carried out the research.

Veronica Patton-Cemm, consulting director at Blurred, the London agency that carried out the research.

Talent is slipping away, especially people in the middle stages of their careers, who leave their companies to advance elsewhere, or go freelance or start businesses on their own.

When asked if they had to leave a role to get a promotion and/or raise, 45 percent of participants answered “yes.” Of those, 52 percent said they are now in management and mid-senior level roles at companies other than where they started.

“Other respondents noted that they had to create their own businesses, or take advantage of freelancing and the gig economy to move into senior leadership positions,” the report said.

Although company cultures are changing, discrimination has not disappeared from the workplace, according to the study.

When asked if they had experienced discrimination in their current company or previous workplace within the fashion industry, 53 percent of respondents agreed that they had, and the same percentage said they had witnessed acts of discrimination.

However, 67 percent of respondents said yes when asked if they were comfortable complaining and/or raising a level and that the situation would be dealt with appropriately.

When asked separately which companies stood out for their continued efforts in diversity and inclusion, Barbara Kennedy-Brown, co-founder of Fashion Minority Alliance, named The Wall Group and said that PVH works “to intent behind the scenes trying to make a difference, and we feel they are getting things right.”

She said that the companies that are making progress have one thing in common. “Their pipeline strategies include programs designed to move the needle and achieve true inclusivity and belonging.”

According to Veronica Patton-Cemm, consulting director at Blurred, who conducted the research, many of the results were positive.

She said many of the industry’s equity and inclusion efforts have “really worked. People came back strongly to say that the senior leadership teams of the organizations were fully committed to RO&I, and that they were taking steps to do what needed to be done.”

Going forward, Patton-Cemm said the challenge is to “promote this work, embed it, and be intentional about it, especially in relation to cultural practices, and ways of working.” She added that companies also need to focus on employee retention, “especially for that difficult middle group [of workers] who are trying to figure out what the next steps look like.”

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