The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, and The Black in Fashion Council, an organization that promotes and advances Black representation in the fashion and beauty industry, released their inaugural Black in Fashion Index report, which measures company policies and practices related to the inclusivity of Black employees.
“We are very excited to finally release our report and so much of the vital work we have been doing behind the scenes to ensure that companies are putting inclusive policies into practice. So many companies have realized in the past year that it is not enough to post a black square or to post a quote on MLK Day—the work that we are invested in requires an infrastructural and culture change from companies to intensely interrogate their values and priorities when it comes to DEI,” said Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Co-Founder of The Black in Fashion Council. “We have also seen companies come to an understanding that it is not just about the numbers of how many people of color they have working at their company, or how many Black-owned brands are in their stores, but how many people of color are elevated to senior roles, in decision-making meetings, and on the board. It is not enough to look like you care about diversity; inclusivity takes work on all parties involved for the needle to move.”
Building on the success of the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking tool on LGBTQ+ inclusion, the Black in Fashion Council and HRC have partnered to produce this yearly public report. The tool tracks the work companies are doing to foster inclusion of Black employees at all levels, which is part of each company’s three-year commitment. In its first year, 30 businesses submitted surveys for analysis and included organizations that ranged in size from small, privately owned enterprises, to Fortune 500 corporations.
“The fashion and beauty industry, by definition, dictate to audiences around the world what is considered desirable, beautiful and worthy—a standard long steeped in white supremacy and patriarchy. That is why creating this tool is critical, to ensure that all bodies, backgrounds and skin tones are equally represented and celebrated,” said Raina Nelson, Workplace Equality Program Senior Manager. “Responding to the call for racial justice, top companies in these industries are driving progress toward equity and inclusion in the workplace and in the public square. Thank you to the Black in Fashion Council for entrusting us with such an important tool that will be a guiding light to businesses around the country, and ultimately, around the world.”
The report is an assessment of the fashion and beauty industry with four major categories: workplace nondiscrimination policies, building an inclusive culture, engaging the Black community and corporate social responsibility. Based on the scoring, companies can earn one of three tiers of recognition—“Building Foundation for Inclusion,” “Foundation for Inclusion” and “Innovative Inclusion.”
- In Workplace Nondiscrimination, 13 participants were awarded the Building tier, 11 were awarded the Foundational tier, and 6 were awarded the Innovative tier.
- In Building an Inclusive Culture, 13 participants were awarded the Building tier, 1 was awarded the Foundational tier, and 16 were awarded the Innovative tier.
- In Engaging the Black Community, 2 participants were awarded the Building tier, 5 were awarded the Foundational tier, and 23 were awarded the Innovative tier.
- In Corporate Social Responsibility, 8 participants were awarded the Building tier, 17 were awarded the Foundational tier, and 5 were awarded the Innovative tier.
The criteria of the survey was created by the Black in Fashion Council and the HRC Foundation Workplace Equality Program to be attainable for all participants independent of company size, budget or current financial performance. Certain criterion include progressive internal policies such as: having a clear written policy prohibiting race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.
The most considerable progress that was measured toward workplace inclusion has been the wide-scale adoption of internal nondiscrimination policies as well as making a specific effort to highlight Black talent.
- 80% of participants report offering an unconscious bias training with clear examples of race, ethnicity-based unconscious bias and microaggressions.
- 97% of participants report featuring Black talent in social media advertising, print and digital covers, print and digital advertising campaigns, branded content, influencer initiatives, commercials and endorsements.
- 83% of participants track representation of under-represented minorities across staff tiers and roles.
However, there is still considerable work to be done across all companies surveyed to achieve top marks in the other inclusive workplace policies and practices listed below:
- 20% of participants report having a formal professional development program for under-represented minorities including Black employees.
- 43% of participants report having an initiative to address pay inequity with an intersectional approach that includes both gender and race.
- 33% of participants report having a supplier diversity program that includes outreach to Minority-Owned Business Enterprises;
- 17% report having a program that includes outreach to LGBTQ-owned businesses.