CFDA and PVH Release Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Study

CFDA and PVH Release Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Study

The findings, based on a survey of more than 1,000 fashion industry professionals, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, paint a picture of an industry that is taking steps toward equality, but has yet to achieve significant results. Though more than half of respondents said they felt their organisations were making genuine efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, people of colour are still widely under-represented, especially at the executive level, and perceptions of the industry and its progress were much worse among Black respondents.

The study follows on from a 2019 diversity report by the American trade organisation and the fashion conglomerate that called out a pervasive lack of diversity in the industry’s upper echelons. This time, the groups mined data gathered by McKinsey & Company in 2020 to draw conclusions.

On the positive side, nearly 60 percent of survey respondents said that their companies had taken some sort of diversity, equity and inclusion action; four out of five believed those actions to be “authentic.” Most respondents also believed that their companies valued diversity in the workplace.

However, 26 percent of Black respondents believed that the best opportunities do not go to those who are most deserving, while only 16 percent of white respondents said the same. More Black respondents also said that they did not believe their company was doing enough to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Black students who were interviewed spoke about their perceptions of Black culture being trendy right now, and their view is that brands are trying to capitalize on these trends,” the report said. “They expressed skepticism and have real concern about entering the fashion industry during this moment. Less than half of the respondents who have seen changes made at their company believe that those changes will be permanent.”

“When talent lands in the organisation and don’t see themselves reflected in the organisation, they don’t see an equitable path so they leave,” one former creative director said in the report.

On the leadership level, there are still few women and people of colour. The report cited a 2019 McKinsey research report that showed employees of colour only made up 16 percent of the C-suite and 15 percent of board seats in the apparel and beauty industry, while people of colour make up 32 percent of entry-level positions. Out of 10 leading fashion companies based in the US, there were only three employees of colour at the C-suite level, and they were all chief diversity officers.

The study, which can be read in full on the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s website, also pointed to a number of opportunities for companies to drive positive change. First, they must ensure that underrepresented communities are made aware of — and given access to — education and job opportunities. They must also establish fair and objective processes for job promotions, advocate for and mentor people of colour. Proper compensation — marking the end of unpaid internships and limiting contract gigs — can also help those who come from low-income backgrounds obtain positions within the industry. Finally, the group advised that organisations work to foster a better sense of belonging, first and foremost by hiring more people from underrepresented groups. Two out of three Black respondents said that they are frequently the only person of their race in the room.

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