2020 wasn’t just the year that COVID-19 disrupted our lives, and particularly our working lives. It also saw an upsurge in anti-racism activism following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a US police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
Floyd’s murder triggered protests across the world and the Black Lives Matter movement.
While many were against governments and the police for alleged racist policies, others were against employers for their workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E&I) failures.
Sportswear brand Adidas was one company that saw walkouts and protests at its US headquarters. Disappointing handling of the situation pushed Adidas’ head of HR Karen Parkin to step down in June 2020.
She was replaced by former BNP Paribas executive Amanda Rajkumar in January 2021, who has since really dialed up the German sportswear brand’s focus on D,E&I.
Not only have Adidas’ 62,000 employees undergone 30 hours of diversity training, but the company has hired external advisers to help it reorient itself.
In addition, the sportswear brand has been laser-focused, in particular, in making D,E&I not just a HR issue; at a recent event with UNLEASH and iCIMS, Aimée Meher-Homji, global head of talent acquisition at Adidas, noted: “It is everybody’s job to ensure we are attracting, retaining and developing” a diverse workforce.”
Now Rajkumar has shared in an interview with the Financial Times the next step the company is taking to make its workplace more fair and diverse.
Adidas is asking its employees to voluntarily share their D,E&I data around ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
This is a big move for a German company as there remains serious concerns about data privacy, particularly of sensitive, personal data.
Rajkumar acknowledged this concern by telling the Financial Times: “We are in a German company and I know that [the data collection] makes everyone very nervous”.
However, she emphasized that employees will not be forced to disclose this data and the aim of the collection is to “measure progress” not make decisions.
She continued: “Society is not equal [and] people are born differently. We want to make sure that we’re not replicating that within the walls of Adidas.”
Adidas is particularly focused on improving its gender equality since Rajkumar is the only woman to serve on the six-member executive board.
The sportswear brand has further committed itself to increasing the the share of women in senior executive roles from 35% to 40% by 2025.
However, Rajkumar is clear that this won’t mean promoting inexperienced staff: “We’re certainly not looking at lowering the bar. We’re looking at widening the gate.”
This case shows the power of employee protests to trigger change at big employers.
The question is will other employers, like Netflix, who are currently facing staff protest and unrest follow Adidas’s lead in making commitments to creating fairer and inclusive workplaces?
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