After vowing to “do better” following the racial reckoning of 2020, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) is reporting an increase in employee representation. In its first-ever diversity and inclusion report published Thursday, the company outlined a small but important uptick in Latinx and Black employees at various levels companywide.
The company’s diversity improved from the year prior, with a 4 percent increase in Latinx individuals and a 1 percent increase in Black individuals in top management positions, and a 2 percent increase in both Latinx and Black individuals in corporate positions. In terms of gender representation, there was a 15 percent increase in women in executive management positions, a 3 percent increase in women in top management positions and a 1 percent increase in women in corporate positions from 2020.
Levi’s parent company’s management team, which it defines as the top 250 leaders in the company, was 73 percent white, and the company’s executive management and board of directors was even less diverse in 2020. From that point forward, it pledged to make a concerted effort to increase representation and publish annual updates on employee demographics and diversity statistics, publish wage equity audits every other year and search for a Black leader to join LS&Co.’s board of directors—and one year later, it fulfilled each of these goals.
To achieve improvements in a year’s time, the company appointed Elizabeth A. Morrison as its first-ever chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, and developed a Diversity and University Recruiting team focused on intentionally recruiting diverse talent and setting these employees up for success. In 2021, it formalized 13 partnerships with diversity-focused organizations, including a three-year partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row, in which LS&Co. will curate a fashion program curriculum to help attract Black fashion students interested in design. The company’s 2021 intern class was one of the most diverse to-date, with 64 percent women and 81 percent BIPOC.
As part of its pledge to do better, the company conducted a pay equity audit in 2020 and determined it “did not have any systemic pay differences across gender and ethnicity.”
“We are tackling our DE&I [diversity, equity, and inclusion] opportunity just like we would any business opportunity: we have done a lot of analysis, listening, learning and have put strategies and plans in place along with metrics to track our progress,” Chip Bergh, president and CEO of LS&Co., said in the report. “As good as our business results have been over the last decade, in my heart, I know we could have done even better if we had been more diverse over that time.”
Education is the backbone to LS&Co.’s strategy.
The company developed a number of partnerships committed to giving diverse employees the tools needed to advance in their careers, including one with the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and its Leadership, Engagement, Advancement and Development (LEAD) program. More than 20 employees were sent to McKinsey and Co.’s first-ever Black Leadership Academy, which aims to help organizations give Black leaders the capabilities needed to achieve their professional goals.
Last year, LS&Co. launched #thepledge, its global training initiative to build awareness, knowledge and skills for acting as inclusive leaders. It led 75 workshops and learning sessions brought to nearly 13,000 individuals in more than 20 languages.
The company also launched a global self-identification (GSID) initiative, which offered employees the opportunity to disclose additional aspects of their identity, including race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran and disability status. It found that 3.6 percent of employees from the U.S., Canada, Germany and Spain identified as LGBTQIA+, and 2.3 percent of U.S. employees identified as disabled.
Diversity and inclusion extends to the supply chain. In reviewing its supplier base, LS&Co. set out to create more opportunities for marginalized businesses, but admits that it’s still “in the nascent stages.” Over time, it plans to launch a global supplier inclusion program for better transparency into indirect suppliers’ corporate social responsibility performance. It will ensure that the companies it works with prioritize values like gender equity, foreign migrant worker protections, and health and safety.
“Donating to a good cause does good but choosing to spend our money with businesses from underrepresented groups generates even more value; it enables sustainable employment and long-term opportunities,” said Lisa Spice, director of supplier inclusion at LS&Co.