July 12, 2024

Shining a light on diversity and inclusion in luxury brands on International Women’s Day

By Abigail Wilmore, Founder, People Flow

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s an ideal opportunity to reflect on the progress made in women’s careers but also to shine a light on the work still needed.

When my mother went out to work and my father raised my sister and me, at that time she couldn’t even get a bank account on her own so it clear that the world of work and women’s rights have dramatically changed for the better and there are more women in leadership positions than ever before.

However, when you look at most executive boards today across all industry sectors it’s still a sea of white male faces.

I was disappointed yet reinvigorated to act when I read the findings of a new report The Outsiders Perspective which focused on diversity in the UK fashion industry and how it can unlock business growth, published by the British Fashion Council, The Outsiders Perspective and the (Fashion) Minority Report, with the support of knowledge partner McKinsey & Company.

The report highlighted several diversity and inclusion gaps that exist particularly in the fact that just 9% of executives and boards in the UK fashion industry are held by people of colour, and 39% by women. Just 11% of executive team and board “Power Roles” (being namely CEO, CFO, Chair and Creative Director) are held by people of colour, and 24% by women. Interestingly despite this, 86% of white men in the industry believe the industry is diverse and 46% of women of colour believe the industry is diverse.

Also, while it has been positive to see in recent years that catwalks and campaigns showcase diversity, this diversity isn’t being mirrored in executive teams and that really needs to change.

The report highlighted the undeniable link between leadership diversity and business success and outlined some key actions needed to achieve industry-wide improvements and enhance talent retention.

As fashion thrives on diverse perspectives, it stands to reason that having a diverse team and broad range of thoughts and ideas is needed at the highest levels of decision-making and creativity.

As our industry is ever more global and the need for cultural interconnectedness is essential, the lack of diversity in leadership will alienate new markets and future customers and suppress innovation.

It’s time to for companies to move beyond lip service and take urgent strategic and tactical steps. One solution is to rethink the entire recruitment and talent management processes and design it for inclusion at every level, taking positive action to promote women and particularly women of colour, to leadership roles and not just at Chief Marketing Officer, Chief People Offer roles but across the board in CEO and CFO roles.

In my view, the Outsiders report serves as a catalyst for change –  the opportunity for brands to create more inclusive culture where every voice is heard and valued.

Change won’t happen overnight but if it is driven and advocated for by the leaders, sponsored from the very top of organisations, and operationalised effectively, it will come.

It is good to see some fantastic initiatives from the likes of the British Fashion Council who offers a range of education initiatives including scholarships to widen access and opportunities into fashion and The Fashion Minority Report, who offer mentoring and paid internships to help diverse talent to access careers in the fashion industry and creative sector.

As we navigate an increasingly interconnected world, the importance of diversity in fashion cannot be overstated. It’s not just about reflecting the world we live in; it’s about shaping the future we aspire to create.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is an opportunity to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in fashion and beyond.