Picture shows work of artist Omoako Boafo who I 'discovered' at Art Basel - Miami 2019

Workplace diversity has become a hot issue and a top priority for recruitment departments and recruitment agencies. After modest progress and some high-profile failures, also the fashion industry has begun to realize that diversity and inclusion needs to be addressed at the C-level. The rise in diversity is related to the increasingly collaborative and team-based structure of modern organizations: the evidence is clear that companies that can effectively recruit and manage a diverse workforce have a clear competitive advantage. In this article I share some insights on diversity recruitment and a personal experience on this topic.

Diversity

Diversity refers to who’s at work: who is recruited, hired, and promoted by a company. In other words, diversity is the representation of a range of traits and experiences in a company’s workforce. These characteristics include gender, race, physical ability, religion, age, and socioeconomic status

Chief Diversity Officers

There's a rising amount of companies that hire chief diversity officers, professionals who handle internal matters like monitoring hiring practices and advancement while scrutinising public-facing representation across marketing and design. You might remember the misstep of H&M, receiving widespread criticism for choosing a young black model to pose in a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” sweatshirt. In my opinion an eye opener example of how non diverse teams and thinking, have a huge and negative effect on fashion design. This incident was a call for action: Early 2018, H&M Group appointed Annie Wu, the first-ever global leader of diversity and inclusion.

Statistics that might make you re-think your recruitment*

• Companies with more women in leadership positions consistently outperform companies with less than half of their leadership positions filled by women. Higher representation of women in C-suite level positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders.
• Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention.
• A diverse workplace is one of the main factors potential employees take into account when considering a job.
• A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review found that the most diverse companies were also the most innovative, allowing them to market a greater range of products to consumers.
• The millennial and Gen Z generations are the most diverse in history.
* Sources listed below

What is diversity recruiting?

Diversity recruiting is the practice of hiring candidates using a process that is free from biases for or against any individual or group of candidates. It is still merit-based recruitment and still aims to find the best possible candidate, but it’s structured to give all applicants, regardless of background, an equal opportunity. The two biggest drivers of a genderdiverse workforce at all levels of an organisation are hiring and promotion processes, which must place all candidates on a level playing field.

Danger of unconscious bias

Back to H&M/s Amy Wu. In her recent interview with The Business Of Fashion she states: "The hardest one has been underestimating how hard change is, and especially change in people’s behaviours."
Fact is that unconscious bias impacts every decision we make, especially in our HR and recruitment practices like hiring and promotion, preventing effective change ( of behaviour ) from taking place. My dear friend diversity activist Peggy Burke mentors me to discover these 'blind' spots in my own perceptions and behaviour. My wake up call is when, around 8 years ago, Peggy showed me a picture in the newspaper of the editor team of Dutch Newspaper 'Het Parool'. She asked me: " What is wrong with this team?" I stared at the picture, scanning for strange hair or clothes maybe, but I had no clue. Then Peggy said: "These are all white people Isrid. How can an editor team create an honest and unprejudiced newspaper?"
I'd like to use this example to place a serious critical note towards many 'established old boys network' recruitment and executive search agencies that might write white papers on female leadership and diversity while their own organization is male dominated in the top with teams of all white people recruiters and consultants. How do you think these agencies are going to own diversity recruitment and support their clients in growing diverse teams? I think I know the answer ;-)

Sources:

The Business of Fashion / BOF professional
BOF Careers - Whitepaper on Gender Diversity
Ideal.com
BonusLy
The Guardian

ISRID is an owner-run agency for access to talent, recruitment and change consultancy, serving an exclusive and high-quality portfolio of clients in the fashion, lifestyle and luxury industry.
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