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At PVH, Using Data to Drive Diversity and Inclusion

Following the release of the apparel company’s 2021 DEI report with the CFDA, PVH’s chief diversity officer shares actionable insights — and how it is leveraging them.
Lance LaVergne, PVH's chief diversity officer and SVP of global talent acquisition and associate experience.
Lance LaVergne, PVH's chief diversity officer and SVP of global talent acquisition and associate experience. PVH. (Patrick MacLeod)
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This February, PVH — which owns Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Van Heusen, among other heritage brands — and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released their report on the State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) in Fashion. The report draws on a McKinsey & Company survey of over 1,000 responses across 41 companies and included additional focus groups of college students and emerging designers.

Building on their last co-authored report, 2019′s Insider/Outsider: Inclusion & Diversity in the American Fashion Industry, the organisations took their analysis a step further and hope others will too. In addition to highlighting the current experience of Black and underrepresented industry professionals, PVH and the CFDA propose individual, company-level and industry-wide action points, along with six areas of intervention and opportunity to “provide guidance for companies to quantify their culture’s strengths and opportunities for improvement”: Awareness, Access, Promotion, Advocacy, Compensation and Belonging.

In conjunction with the project, PVH reaffirmed its own DEI strategies, leveraging the report’s recommendations to implement across its global locations and support greater diversity and inclusion among its almost 40,000 associates. In the spirit of transparency, PVH started reporting on available diversity and representation statistics in their annual CR report. As the CEO of PVH Corp. Stefan Larsson says, “We have work to do at PVH, together with our larger industry, we have a collective responsibility to lean in and drive real impact.”

Now, BoF sits down with Lance LaVergne, chief diversity officer and SVP of global talent acquisition and associate experience at PVH, to learn more about the report findings and how PVH plans to implement its actionable insights.

What is the primary purpose intended for the report?

The report centres around difference, signposting the groups that have privilege and access, and those that don’t. As in every industry or sector, there are groups that are underrepresented, who have sought to gain access and opportunity — those issues are not unique to fashion or the United States.

We delve into what those issues are — what underpins and drives those differences or lack of access to opportunity, the underrepresentation that we see of different communities and populations — and we do so from a research-based perspective. To be able to quantify people’s experiences is a great outcome of this piece of work.

The report also gives companies and organisations an opportunity to figure out where to invest their time and resources to try and level the playing field and help everybody begin from the same starting point.

What DEI issues, highlighted in the report, are especially exacerbated in the fashion industry?

While the notion of, “Do you fit the part?” comes into play in many different industries, the idea of taste or aesthetic is especially prevalent in our business because of the visual nature of the fashion industry. Equating taste and style with socio-economic status is also approached differently in our industry.

Compensation, or lack thereof, is another key issue in fashion. People are willing to do anything to get into this business — and demand is high. However, in-kind types of compensation, like product or access to events, has a disproportionately negative impact on the people who don’t have the financial resources to work for free or for giveaways, or who need to supplement their income.

How has the report evolved since the 2019 edition?

The first report we did in 2019 was more of a thought piece to start a larger discussion around these issues within fashion. We always intended to evolve it, and with the events that unfolded last spring and summer leading to a heightened sensitivity around diversity and inclusion, we refined the focus and direction of the work, delving deeper into specific issues of race and ethnicity in fashion.

We also wanted the report to be grounded in actual research. The ability to partner with McKinsey to do a survey of over 1,000 people across the industry, combined with focus groups and one-on-one interviews, gave us rich data that validates what we knew anecdotally from the previous report.

It’s about identifying those areas of underrepresentation [...] and putting plans in place through recruitment, promotions or development.

The other big evolutionary component is that we identify actionable steps, and what individuals, companies and the industry can do to address the issues identified and codified in the research itself.

How is PVH putting into practice actionable learnings across its global campuses?

Our focus is on three main areas: marketplace, workplace and communities. With respect to marketplace, we are working to ensure that our marketing and advertising reflects the full breadth of diversity we see among our consumers, and that the experiences we deliver, be that online, in stores or in our showrooms, resonate with our consumers.

In our workplace, we are looking at what we can do to ensure we not only have a diverse workforce, but a workplace that allows people to fully realise their potential. It’s about identifying those areas of underrepresentation, where we don’t see opportunity being applied or conferred equitably across our associate population, and putting plans in place to address that through recruitment, promotions or development.

For communities, we aim to leverage the power of PVH and our platform to organise initiatives that help raise awareness and promote access to opportunities in communities that are underserved or underrepresented. We also want to support partnerships and volunteer opportunities that allow PVH associates to make a positive impact in our communities, such as our on-going partnership with Save the Children.

How do you track your own associates’ sentiments around DEI at PVH?

It’s crucial to have mechanisms in place to listen and learn. PVH Listens is our biannual associate engagement survey, which has 50+ questions that allow us to get feedback on a variety of different dimensions of the experience associates are having. In between surveys, we do check-ins on a variety of topics, which gives us more frequent feedback.

It’s crucial to have mechanisms in place to listen and learn.

We also have Let’s Talk, a format through which we engage associates via coffee catch-up conversations; listening sessions with senior leaders or junior employees; and forums with internal or external speakers. These are designed so we can hear from our associates, let them know we have heard them and share what we are doing based on their feedback.

What DEI practices do you apply to your recruitment and promotion processes?

Within the three principle HR activities — recruiting, promotion and retention — if you are able understand the experiences and movements within your organisation, you can put practices in place that either enhance or correct what you identify.

For example, as you analyse the progression through the recruiting cycle, are people moving through at that same percentage rate? If you start with half of your pool identifying as female, does that same percentage hold as they work their way through to the actual hiring outcomes? You can make sure your recruiters and hiring managers are attuned and trained to mitigate as much bias as you can so that you are making hiring decisions based on qualifications and experiences.

Transparency in your recruiting and promotion processes also helps associates understand their opportunities. What does it take to move up to the next level? Be clear so everybody knows and can work towards it, and then apply those standards equitably across all people that you are considering for those advancement opportunities.

How are you encouraging diverse entry-level talent to consider PVH as an employer?

One conversation we’re having is how we can expand the entry-level pipeline into the organisation, better leveraging university recruitment by engaging with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, women’s colleges or Hispanic Serving Institutions.

The ability to interact with others and do the learning is crucial in landing that first job, and having to leave at 5pm to do another part-time job to subsidise your summer internship puts you at a disadvantage. That is why our internship programmes are paid and not only for college credit.

Engagement and belonging are huge drivers of retention, and mentorship has proven to be a crucial element of that strategy.

We build in programming that allows our interns to meet professionals across the spectrum of businesses through mentoring and buddy-pairing. We are looking to leverage our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) in that process too. They can host new hire orientation sessions that create points of connection and a sense of community for interns and new hires to plug into, to help them understand the organisation early on instead of having to stumble and fumble until they pick it up later.

What DEI strategies guide your development and retention practices?

Engagement and belonging are huge drivers of retention, and mentorship has proven to be a crucial element of that strategy. We have a combination of ad hoc mentoring and some more formal programmes at PVH, but some people from underrepresented groups still don’t have access, so we are further formalising the process. Ultimately, we aim to evolve from mentorship to sponsorship on our roadmap, to help all associates become beneficiaries.

BRGs also play a vital role in helping to create an inclusive work environment and sense of belonging. The BRGs can help associates to find a home within the wider organisation, which leads to greater inclusion, retention and engagement. Leveraging our BRGs for mentoring programmes, educational purposes or career development training really helps their memberships take full advantage of everything the organisation has to offer — and helps us reach those who may not otherwise engage.

We are also building out a curriculum through the PVH University as part of our diversity and inclusion roadmap — from unconscious bias training to micro-aggression training — that demonstrates how bias impacts and influences day-to-day decisions. We have a recruiter training programme because decisions we make in the hiring process are often so quick. There is also training on how to manage multicultural teams and create an inclusive environment.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by PVH Corp. as part of a BoF Careers partnership.

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