Things appear to be steadily improving at VF Corp. when it comes to what the company calls inclusion, diversity, equity and action, or IDEA.
In its latest annual IDEA report out this week, the company showed representation wins by both gender and ethnicity, as well as programs helping to improve the pipeline of people from more diverse backgrounds.
But for Lauren Guthrie, VF’s vice president of global inclusion, diversity, equity and action, the wins went well beyond the numbers — and beyond her purview, too.
“In my opinion, our work is best served when it’s not being executed by the inclusion, diversity, equity and action team at the ask, but where we can really spotlight the activation that is happening across the business,” she told WWD.
Still, because the numbers are often what people want to understand first, the report showed that representation of women-identifying people across the organization for fiscal-year 2022 is more than half at 53.2 percent (albeit down from 54.5 percent in the previous year). At the director level and above, representation of women ticked up from 40.7 percent to 41.8 percent.
When it comes to progress toward those increases over the last year, VF said 56.1 percent of its new hires at the corporate headquarters level were women and that 60.4 percent of promotions were earned by women. On the attrition side, which not all companies are transparent about, 63.6 percent of those who left VF at the corporate level were women.
Racially, 39.5 percent of those working across all levels of VF identify as white, 33.5 percent as Latine, 8.7 percent as Black, 7 percent as two or more races, 5.7 percent as Asian and just slightly more than 1 percent identifying as Native.
In terms of those identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of color, the number went from 16.4 percent at the director level and above last fiscal year, to 18.1 percent in the 2022 fiscal year. New hires at the corporate level among people from diverse backgrounds were 31.5 percent of the total hires, promotions earned were 20.2 percent and attrition stood at 37.4 percent.
Asked what the company is doing to improve representation where it lacks it the most — particularly among Black, Asian and Native employees — Guthrie said the company is working to “get underneath the covers and understand the dimensions around each one of our populations because in some cases there are unique needs, necessary to support their growth and development.”
As such, VF is working with specific organizations, including nonprofit Black Equity at Work, to build out specific plans to improve representation among specific groups as well as to “create ascension paths into our corporate brand environments,” according to Guthrie.
And to hold itself to task — and keep its employees up to speed on where things are, another key aspect of transparency — the company shares representation data quarterly on new hire, promotion, attrition and job change rates at an individual race and ethnicity level.
One thing Guthrie is proudest of in this year’s report is evidence, as she noted, of a greater integration of efforts around DE&I across the organization.
VF’s collaboration with the Pensole Design Academy and founder D’Wayne Edwards, which established a “DiverCity x Design” apprenticeship program, bringing in a cohort of five rising designers who had three-month rotations across VF brands, including The North Face, Timberland, Vans and Altra, has been particularly fruitful.
It’s, as Guthrie said, “an incredible example of how we’re thinking about connecting our internal opportunities with external needs at a societal level. And D’Wayne has been a tremendous partner in really helping us understand the magnitude of deficit when it comes to cultural, racial and ethnic diversity.”
What’s not in this latest report, according to Guthrie, is that the company hired four out of five of those individuals for full-time roles across the organization, and the fifth, she said, “we’re hoping to snag at some point in time but it was important for him to finish his undergraduate degree and we were hugely supportive of that.”
In other areas, VF said it’s also seeing progress. While it had committed to allocating 10 percent of its U.S. grant funding through the VF Foundation to DE&I efforts, that number has actually reached 56 percent.
“Part of the reason for that is the recognition that equity can be a key filter and all of our giving priorities,” Guthrie said, “so not just kind of segregated to that 10 percent goal.”
One area where Guthrie said VF could still use some work, and is among the company’s key efforts between now and next year’s IDEA report, is internal belonging.
“As we continue to build in our maturity journey, we have to continuously come back to the basics and the most foundational elements of our strategy which, ultimately, is this commitment to belonging for our associates…there is no authenticity in those external engagements without rigorous focus on our internal associate experience,” Guthrie said. “So we’ve continued to really invest in listening, both through surveys and focus groups, to ensure that we’re in lockstep with our associate communities, and where there’s dissonance in the system, that were really diligent about exploring it and navigating it.”