Black in Fashion Council highlights industry shortcomings in racial equality
Despite renewed discussions about racial equality in the fashion industry, a new report carried out by the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) shows that the sector still leaves much to be desired on this front.
The results of the inaugural Black in Fashion Index were obtained from a survey of 30 participants, representing a range of different company sizes, from large corporations to small private sector businesses. Participating companies were analysed on four key criteria: workplace nondiscrimination, building an inclusive culture, engaging the Black community, and corporate social responsibility.
In terms of workplace nondiscrimination, the report highlights the issue of pay inequality, pointing out that, on average, Black men earn 98 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white man earns, while Black women fair even worse, earning 80 cents.
Of the 30 companies surveyed, only 13 – or 43% – currently have initiatives addressing race and gender-based pay inequality.
With regard to building an inclusive culture, the report found that while 70% of survey respondents had either an ERG or a D&I Council, only 43% offered an Employee Resource Group specifically for Black employees and their allies.
Furthermore, only 20% of participants said that they had a formal professional development program for underrepresented minorities, with the same small number of companies offering formal mentoring or sponsorship programs for these groups.
Companies performed comparatively well when it came to the question of engaging the Black community, with 77% of participants saying that they conducted targeted recruiting opportunities to attract Black talent. 80% of companies also reported that they engage in philanthropic efforts specifically for the Black community.
Finally, in relation to corporate social responsibility, while a promising 83% of surveyed companies said that they track representation of under-represented minorities across staff tiers in their organizations, only 40% publish their findings publicly. 22% of the 23 survey participants with a board of directors reported having made a public commitment to maintaining a diverse board, which includes Black representation.
Overall, the Index suggests that the fashion industry still has a long way to go in addressing racial inequality. “Although Blackness is often commodified for profit, Black people, Black experiences, and Black voices are rarely given a non-performative platform in the fashion industry,” the report explains.
A collective of more than 400 Black stylists, models, executives, designers and editors, BIFC was founded by public relations executive Sandrine Charles and Lindsey People Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Cut, in 2020.
The 30 companies surveyed by the organization for the Black in Fashion Index have also signed the Black in Fashion Pledge, a three-year commitment to increasing the number of their Black employees at the junior and executive level.
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