A new report by the British Fashion Council (BFC) and the MBS Group, a UK-based executive search firm, found that 51 percent of European fashion companies now have a “coordinated” diversity and inclusion strategy but that progress on most of the goals espoused in 2020 remain sluggish.
White men still occupy the lion’s share of leadership roles at fashion companies of any size in Europe and many of the 100 fashion companies analysed by BFC and MBS haven’t moved the needle much on hiring or promoting ethnic minorities. The proportion of women at fashion’s board, executive committee and direct report level (or those reporting directly to senior leaders) sits at below 40 percent, the report found. At the same levels, leaders from an ethnic minority background make up 9 percent, 7 percent and 5 percent of the leadership population, respectively.
A lack of data and too-narrow paths to breaking into fashion remain among the most significant barriers to progress for many companies: Only 29 percent of companies have “thorough” data on the diversity of their organisation; another 29 percent described the data that they do have as insufficient; the remaining 42 percent do not collect data, said the report.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, fashion companies faced increased pressure from employees, consumers and their boards to prioritise diversity and inclusion. The BFC’s report mirrors many of the trends in the US where companies are struggling to match their rhetoric with reality — although US companies have faced less hurdles in gathering and reporting on diversity data. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation restricts companies from sharing certain information and has made reporting on DEI progress challenging.
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