2020 was catastrophic. The coronavirus was one thing, but the consequences the disease has since caused are even more profound. Still, if one saving grace is to be found, it is that conversations surrounding racism, representation, and diversity are now more common in 2021 amongst industry leaders than ever before.
However, the easy part is opening up conversations. The hard part is directing these conversations into actions. And it is essential for companies and industry leaders to be the ones spearheading efforts surrounding equity and equal representation.
“Diversity is especially important for a global company working across cultures, geography, races, and markets.”Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation.
Industry leaders who are focusing on representation in 2021
2021 is a year of change, starting with a new president. There is still a long way to go to mend the wrongs that were previously done.
American society, nonetheless, is doing its best to reclaim its balance and normalcy. Industry leaders and social activists, influencers, and more are working together to generate changes in representation in 2021.
Companies and organizations embed the ideas of diversity, equity, and inclusion within their systems. They intend to establish working environments that provide fair opportunities for minorities and people of colors.
Let’s take a look at the actions some representative figures in different industries take.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
As the CEO of Microsoft, Nadella is an expert with great insight and intelligence. He is also a leader with great compassion and emotionality. He is aware of the ongoing racial and cultural conflicts in society and the lack of diversity in workplaces.
Last year, in the wake of protests related to police killings of Black people, Nadella sent out an email to all Microsoft employees addressing racial injustice. Microsoft’s commitments are to improve the situation and increase racial diversity of the company’s management structure.
The goal is to double the number of “Black and African American managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders in the U.S by 2025.”
“The company released a five-year plan that details how the company plans to combat racial injustice and inequality for the Black and African American community. And how it addresses the needs of other underrepresented groups, including the Hispanic and Latinx communities.”Sarah K. White for CIO.
Teresa Carlson, Vice President for Amazon Web Services
The technology industry is notoriously known for its prejudice and discrimination against women.
The landscape of the tech industry is still stagnant, despite social conversations about expanding gender diversity in technology. Women are still underpaid, underrepresented, and underestimated.
“The Challenge of fully representing – let alone empowering – women in technology have taken much longer. According to 2019 data from (NCWIT), though 57% of all employed adults in the U.S were women, they held just 26% of computing roles.”Teresa Carlson, Fortune.
To build a diverse and equal tech future, Carlson believes that the industry must include every color, gender, belief, origin, and community.
Together with Amazon Web Services, Carlson has been “purposeful in working toward the creation of a business that reflects the diversity of its customers.”
Examples are working through recruitment from women’s colleges and organizations, and support for women-focused affinity groups with global chapters, etc.
Carlson is an advocate for representation and ownership of one’s skill and learning. Partnerships and education, in this case, are crucial to realizing this expectation.
AWS’s collaboration with Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) in 2020, for instance, empowered underrepresented students and provided them with a skill-based program that will “position students for well-paying, in-demand jobs.”
Women were given amazing representations in this program since the LCTCS campuses are highly diverse. While Black, Indigenous, and people of color take up 63 percent of the student body, women represent over 50 percent. And this was only the beginning for building a better pipeline and creating a better working environment for women in tech.
Anna Goodson, Founder of Anna Goodson Illustration Industry
A female-powered agency. An illustration agency whose goals are to capture cultural diversity and define decisive cultural moments. Anna Goodson Agency is a platform that gathers hidden gems (artists) from different backgrounds.
Cultural diversity matters. Representation matters.
President and Founder Anna Goodson has been devoted to building an inclusive, culturally diverse family that helps people find their own voices since 1996.
In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, the agency has also increased its inclusion of Black illustrators/artists and asked them to translate hidden stories and cultural roots of their communities into visual representations.
Black artists and illustrators have been protesting in the movement to render their visibility in both real life and on social media.
Judith Rudd, a digital illustrator and motion graphics artist, as Anna Goodson notes, “has developed a personal illustration style based on Black glamour that’s shaped by her experiences as a Black woman and her engagement with the high fashion aesthetics of ‘Ball’ culture.”
In Rudd’s images, there are stories and there are also historical depictions of Blackness. Her tone is authentic because she draws inspiration from her personal experiences and cultural background.
This echoes Goodson’s comment, “Authentic representation and true diversity mean hiring illustrators from appropriate backgrounds.”
Besides Rudd, there are also artists like My Tien Pham, Nien-Ken Alec Lu, and Jiyeun Kang, who are not afraid to call for changes and deconstruct racial stereotypes through their arts. It is “the quietly transformative power of inclusion and radical softness,” as Goodson describes.
Rihanna, Founder of Fenty Beauty
I don’t own any products from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, but I have heard primarily positive comments on the brand from people I know. The brand is still young, but it has already acquired a great number of loyal consumers.
How did Fenty Beauty become so popular and successful in such a short period of time? The brand’s broad inclusivity across skin tones and gender is the reason.
When Fenty first came out in the market, it already had 40 different shades of foundation – much more than most makeup brands in the market. As the brand continues growing throughout time, its collection of foundation shades has also expanded to 50.
Fenty is able to reach its consumers and fulfill their demands for shades ranging from the lightest to the darkest. Consumers love Fenty because it is a brand that thinks about consumers’ problems.
“It was the first time underrepresented, underserved women and cultures were features in a global prestige beauty campaign.”Sandy Saputo, chief marketing officer at Kendo Brands.
The availability of distinct foundation shades passes on Rihanna’s message to increase inclusivity of diverse skin tones and visibility of different cultures in society. The campaign also shares Rihanna’s vision of “Beauty for All.”
In 2021, besides the concept of diversity, inclusivity, and representation, Rihanna also includes considerations for different skin tone, sizes, age, and gender in her beauty brand.
Tommy Hilfiger, Founder of Tommy Hilfiger
The American fashion brand, Tommy Hilfiger, has also joined the force of championing inclusion and representation in 2021. The brand has announced its key partnerships with its People’s Place Program “to celebrate Black, Indigenous and People of color in fashion to advance underrepresented communities.”
“The People’s Place Program is a cornerstone in our efforts to open the door to everyone who has been left out by fashion. This welcoming spirit has always been at the heart of our brand, and we are here to do more and to do better.”Tommy Hilfiger, principal designer at TH Global.
Besides the People’s Place Program, the company also collaborates with Harlem’s Fashion Row and The Fashion and Race Database.
The Fashion and Race Database is an educational platform built to bring attention to people who “previously had been hidden in the margins of fashion history.”
In February this year, Black musician and producer Saba and Compton Cowboys took over the brand’s social media channel and visualized important moments in Black American history.
Looking forward to more industry leaders focusing on representation in 2021
The work is not yet done, we still have a long way to go. While we are watching leaders and influencers promoting diversity and representation in society in 2021, we can do something too.
Starting from events around us, small change will then make a big difference.