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Vans Owner Aiming for Total Gender Parity in Leadership

Vans, The North Face, Timberland and Dickies owner VF Corp aims to see complete gender parity across its worldwide leadership, according to a new report.

The Denver company’s annual profile on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action (IDEA) outlined actions it has taken over the past year to address these issues across its supply chains and corporate workforce.

The company wants to be an industry leader in social progress, according to Lauren Guthrie, IDEA vice president. “At VF, it is vital that the ideas we put forth are not just aspirational, but actionable,” she said. “Our progress in FY22 across multiple fronts continues to drive business benefit and inspires us to further innovate and expand on our work.”

Guthrie’s team has worked to help VF’s portfolio forge brand-level partnerships and initiatives that address diversity and build upon equity and parity goals. The company is on track to reach gender parity at the director level and above by 2030 and 25 percent BIPOC representation during the same time frame.

During 2022, VF said employees who identify as women account for 42 precent of the global population of directors and other senior management. Women make up 53 percent of VF’s total global workforce.

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Currently, BIPOC employees account for 18 percent of director-and-above roles in the U.S., and BIPOC employees grew to make up 56 percent of the country’s workforce. Minorities made up 61 percent of new hires and 48 percent of those promoted over the past year.

VF brands collectively collaborated with Portland’s Pensole Design Academy to form the DiverCity x Design apprenticeship program. The immersive program took on its first cohort of five emerging creatives, each of whom spent three-month rotations with Altra, The North Face, Timberland and Vans mastering new skills and learning from industry experts. Four of those designers are now employed full time by Vans and Timberland.

The Global Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Council (GIDEC) was established to promote IDEA as a core business initiative and working values-driven initiatives into the company’s internal operations. At the corporate level, VF is expanding internal employee resource groups, which now include WOVEN (Women of VF Empowerment Network), ACE Diversity, VF Pride and Veteran Forces.

Meanwhile, the VF Foundation helped found the the Resilience Fund for Women in Global Value Chains, impacting women outside of the company’s purview by giving unrestricted funding to organizations in South Asia. The VF Foundation said it will now funnel 10 percent of its annual grant funding to support community initiatives that promote racial equity throughout the global supply chain.

The company said it aims to create opportunity for advancement and help employees at the retail level make the jump into corporate positions. The Limit Less Learnings Retail Apprentice program focuses on forging a path for career growth, hiring 15 apprentices each year to work across VF’s brand portfolio. “This project is important because the retail employee population at VF mirrors our consumers—it’s demographically diverse,” Vans senior manager of learning and development Nicolle Johnson said. Retail jobs attract individuals who are passionate about working with people and product, she said. “We can nurture their aspirations, guide them, and make them aware of the many career paths available at VF regardless of any systemic social barriers they may have experienced.”

“We have a vision of what we want to create—a world that is inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible across race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation and culture,” Guthrie said. The company hopes to impact the communities in which it operates, as well as “our global supply chain and across the footwear and apparel industry.”

“The only way to build sustainable, long-term change is to stay steadfast as we ascend the summit to equity,” she said.