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Season 2, Episode 13: Inclusivity in Fashion Starts with Diversity of Thought

The dynamic pace of the fashion industry creates a unique challenge and an opportunity for diversity of thought. How do you move quickly, but slow down at the same time, to capture everyone’s voice? As diversity of thought drives creativity within an organization, how do we create psychological safety in a team so people bring the best of themselves at all seniority levels? What is the connection between inclusion, culture, curiosity and unconscious bias?  

Join Semone Bamboat, VP of Global Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion at Capri Holdings, and Tony Rogers, Senior Consultant at Right Management, as they discuss how leaders can create a safe, inclusive and supportive culture in their organizations. 

Hosts: Roberta Cucchiaro and Dominika Gałusa

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Full Transcript


Intro (00:01): The future of work and the future for workers is changing from new technologies and talent strategies to the management of tomorrow's workforce. Tap in to ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions' 60 years of expertise and join us for The Transform Talent Podcast, your guide to talent market trends, new technologies, and winning talent solutions. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (00:31): Hi and welcome to the 13th episode of The Transform Talent Podcast. This is Roberta Cucchiaro. 

Dominika Galusa (00:37): And Dominika Galusa. Today is a very special day to our podcast because it's our one year anniversary, and it's been a fantastic journey so far. And I would like to thank everyone who has been following us. We have heard such inspiring stories on this podcast, from the link between dyslexia and soft-skills to blockchain technology and recruitment, about karma in the candidate feedback process, we talked to SocialTalent about upskilling and reskilling. We also heard the success stories from the Junior Achievement program, and the list could go on and on. And we are very excited with what will come our way in the next podcast year. But now, let's come back to today. So what are we talking about on this episode, Roberta? 

Roberta Cucchiaro (01:26): So, well, today, we want to talk about diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry. It's a really, really tough industry to get in and to succeed in. We have started seeing less Photoshop in magazines, there are more diverse backgrounds on the catwalks than there were before, but how about diversity when it comes to fashion students? Emerging designers? Industry leaders? We've also started seeing the first wheelchair-bound models on the catwalks, but there is just so much more that needs to be done. And at the end of the day, all starts from the leaders' vision. 

We are joined by Semone Bamboat, who's the VP for Global Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion at Capri Holdings, which is Michael Kors, Versace, and Jimmy Choo. So welcome, Semone, to the podcast. 

Semone Bamboat (02:14): Thank you. Thank you, Roberta. Thank you, Dominika, for having me. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (02:17): No, it's our pleasure. And we are also joined by Tony Rogers who's our Senior Consultant on Right Management, part of Talent Solutions. Welcome to the podcast, Tony. 

Tony Rogers (02:28): Thank you for having me. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (02:29): So, let's start with you, Semone. Starting a bit about your journey. You are the VP for Diversity & Inclusion at Capri Holdings. And what has led you to focus on diversity and inclusion in your work? What's the story behind that? 

Semone Bamboat (02:45): Sure. So, I actually have grown up in retail. Have been in retail for the past 20 years, started in stores and kind of worked my way up through corporate. And throughout this process and, and throughout my childhood, to be honest, I've always been unique. Unique in the religion that I follow. It's called Zoroastrians, so it's a very small religious group, originated in Persia. So I’ve actually never been in a room where there is someone like me. And because of that, I've kind of always felt this need to educate everyone around me, about my culture, and also at the same time learn about other cultures to try and kind of find that similarity as I'm talking to someone else, between my culture and theirs. So I've always been very, very interested in it. 

So, as the person that heads up Talent Acquisition and thinking about always diverse recruitment and wanting to bring in diverse candidates, so we have unique points of view within our organization, it seems like a really great kind of blend to then take over Diversity & Inclusion. So, this way, we can, we can start to bring in candidates that come with this diverse mind of thought, but then also get to keep them there with all of these wonderful, inclusive programs that we're developing. 

Dominika Galusa (04:11): I've read the news that Capri Holdings formed the Foundation for the Advancement of Diversity in Fashion in February this year, and the company pledged $20 million to support the company's DE&I. Well, that's, that's a very impressive number. So, how has Capri Holdings DE&I journey been so far? And what is the story behind this foundation? 

Semone Bamboat (04:35): Right. So, yes, we were very, very excited when our CEO gave us this $20 million and gave us the opportunity to create this foundation. And, and the meaning behind the foundation is, is that as we want to diversify the fashion industry and as we recruit, we most likely recruit from other fashion houses, right? Like, if we're looking for a designer, we're gonna look at our competitors. And we look around our competitors, and we notice that nobody is diverse. It's not just us, but it's the industry as a whole. 

So, this foundation was created to improve diversity within fashion, period. So, how do we reach people all over the world that have not even thought about having careers in fashion? Or have had that opportunity to go to a fashion school? Or, even understand that there are other careers within fashion besides, for example, design, right? There's finance, there's IT, there's... there's so much opportunity within fashion. So, we were granted this $20 million to be able to partner with universities and programs around the world to kind of spread this knowledge, and to give students the opportunity and pay for their full tuition, their internship opportunities, their books, everything, so that they don't have to worry about any of that. They can just attend school. 

And the plan is really to go into areas that might not know or might not have parents that have gone to college and not know that there is even that opportunity to go to college. And we're really hoping that through these partnerships, we can expand the student reach as to who gets to go these wonderful fashion schools.   

Roberta Cucchiaro (06:26): Hmm. It's beautiful to hear when there are these actions taken at the student level, so, at the very beginning, to help the future leaders, the leaders of tomorrow. And there's also another question I have and it's something that I've been thinking about quite a lot, and I'm very curious to hear what you think about. DE&I in fashion is not just about color and race. It's also about the body image, body shape, the age, gender, disabilities. So, how do you think the fashion industry can really be more inclusive for everyone? 

Semone Bamboat (07:00): And that is a hundred percent for sure. What we work on is, is having our Capri community understand that D&I is not just about ethnicity, that there are so many other components of it. We partner with other groups within our organization, for example, marketing and PR, they are the ones that put on our fashion shows. They do our campaigns, and we were work closely with them on, you know, the importance of D&I. And you can see by today’s runway show that just happened a few weeks ago that diversity is definitely starting on that catwalk, that we have models that are all very different from one another. Not just from an ethnicity standpoint but from a size perspective. We have a lot of gender-neutral models and items for sale now, so it is infusing within the fashion industry. 

I always say it's a walk, not a race, and it's going to take time, but I most certainly see that the industry, specifically us, in all three of our brands are really walking or are running pretty quick to get to that place. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (08:20): If I shifted a bit the conversation thinking about leadership because one change needs to happen, leadership is key. I would like to ask Tony a question and if you can put your Right Management hat on for this one. So, in 2015, Right Management launched its P3 Leader Model. And following the pandemic, we recognized that the model needed to be inclusive of new RS that leaders should be prepared for, such as the need to create a safe, inclusive, and supportive culture. And with this in mind and understanding the role leaders play in setting the culture for their organizations, we are introducing with Right Management the Leading With Impact Framework. So, Tony, how can leaders be better leaders? And what do you think should be the priority for leadership teams across the world? 

Tony Rogers (09:07): Absolutely. You know, I’ll turn back is something Semone said that I think is central. She mentioned in her journey, curiosity around difference, around other ways in viewing the world, is crucial to any leadership to look at. And so, I think this deep curiosity for what we don't know and what we may not know, and then the importance of gathering other perspectives, this perspective-taking, and so kind of in our model we talked about showing curiosity for diverse perspectives, also taking deep empathy to really try to understand these deep perspectives. One thing that we've seen I think through the pandemic and in recently in North America and abroad as well in terms of people more and more aware of the barriers to diversity is also the importance of being humble that we may not see our own biases. We may not see the things that affect others and hold others back. So, you see there's awakening around truly trying to appreciate what can hold others' back. 

Now, if that's still not enough, then you have to have to orchestrate as many voices as you can within your organization, within your community. So that the leader's role is to orchestrate these different voices, align them for change, and so we kind of see this as on the middle. In our Leading With Impact model, we kind of looked at two categories, if you will. Being and doing. And by being, we mean what does the leader bring in terms of these dispositions towards curiosity, humility, transparency, vulnerability, and disability to kind of harness diverse voices but also with the doing. And that doing will be most centrally empowering people creating safety to bring in those talents in ways, and I think what we're trying to connect more and more in this space is, "Yes, we get the power of diversity." 

And as Semone said... One of the things that I'm so excited with working with Capri is how they value diversity of thinking. It is essential to their DNA in the corporation. Yet, diversity is not enough. It's how do we then create an inclusive culture where people bring in their best selves, bring in those voices. And then, here's the leadership nut we have to crack, the skill to really synergize those unique voices to find the common ground, the common vision. So, it's not enough to have diversity, you have to have the exploration, how we come together to create safety and belonging. 

And so with Capri, what we really are working on, as you can see the diversity piece is very, very clear. What we want to do in this... And again, we're so grateful for this exciting partnership with Capri, is to really help leaders truly, truly begin to collaborate more deeply, more fully within this diversity. And that's kind of the journey that we're on today that- that's so exciting. 

Dominika Galusa (11:54): And what comes to mind is that being a leader is like being a conductor actually, so that's pretty beautiful. Tony and Semone, I'd like to focus now on INCLUDE, as you, Tony, briefly mentioned. The Right Management's program that helps leaders incorporate DE&I in their strategy. So Tony, what does Right Management offer through INCLUDE? 

Tony Rogers (12:16): So, INCLUDE is a platform and it’s a series of methods of helping leaders self-reflect, look at themselves, and then translate insight to action. It includes coaching. It includes workshops. It includes some assessment to really uncover their unique strengths to be an inclusive leader, and of course address any blind spots or opportunities. But even more importantly, it is translating what we already know. Most of our clients are aware, as we talked about, that diversity brings value. It brings innovation value. It brings shareholder value. If we create that inclusive culture that really allows those strengths to be harnessed. So, they get that. 

Also, our companies are aware that unconscious bias is something we are all subject to, and we must be able to be aware of that. I think that foundation, at least within our client base as I look around us, they get that, they've already worked on that. But now, the question is, what do I do next? And so, what INCLUDE does is really look at the behaviors to harness diversity that I mentioned, how do I recognize the unique strengths and then how do I begin to connect the dots so people can, within the team, see each other's unique strengths? And then, value them and then use their skills of curiosity, transparency, humility to begin to bring those, those out? 

Now, one of the thing... I think the question that many of our clients still are working through the day is what is the connection between inclusive culture and what we call the -isms. And by the -isms, I mean racism, sexism, heterosexism. You also have other -isms of an ethnocentrism, and they vary by where you are in the world. They exist, to some extent, everywhere but how they express themselves is unique to the local context. And so, I think many of our clients are trying to connect, as we build an inclusive culture, what activist stance do we take towards these -isms? And how much do we bring in the public and the private together? How much are we encouraging our employees to talk about this authenticity? 

So, this, I think, is still an area of questioning, exploring. How do we merge the public and the private and many, many as you know of our, of our younger hires and candidates that have deep sense of social justice and responsibility. How do we capture that? How do we captivate that? And be sensitive that our customers have their own needs and journeys and may have their own fears and trepidations. And so, the leader today has got to be very sensitive to the public and the private. How do they lead their teams to take action where they can against the -isms? How does that build the inclusive culture? How do you remove those barriers to create much more inclusive cultures? And what INCLUDE does is, in a very practical way, help them with these conversations. They've got to talk together with their peer leaders. They've got to talk to their team members. And it creates a safe place to have these deep conversations that lead to more specific tangible action. 

So, that's what INCLUDE uniquely does. It's not just the insight. It’s not just understanding, but we have these biases or opportunities. It's how do I make a difference within my organization? 

Dominika Galusa (15:40): Semone, so why did Capri Holdings decide to offer INCLUDE to their leaders? 

Semone Bamboat (15:46): Really, all of those reasons that Tony just stated, to be honest. We're looking to improve inclusion overall. Curiosity, we realize through the gears that, that most of our leadership team probably needs to work on their curiosity, so we're hoping that that area comes to light and could all start to become better at that. The increase of feeling safe, like Tony suggested, that are all of our employees understand that their leaders truly understand the notion of inclusion so they feel that they do have the safe space to work in. Another, which is very important for us this year, is this whole decrease of bias. As Tony stated, we all know that we have unconscious bias, but if we continue to remind each other of it, it comes to light more. So, we think about it as we go through our recruiting process, our team meetings, et cetera. 

And you know, we always feel like there is, there's room to improve. So, this INCLUDE workshop just gives leaderships more accountability. It brings it more front of mind, and it challenges them. And we really wanted, you know, to not only improve inclusion within our teams but challenge our leadership team to make it a very important goal of theirs. 

Tony Rogers (17:14): Semone, one thing you said there that I think that is important to our journey at Capri is, you know, the dynamic pace of fashion. I mean, the way in which you have to move so quickly and decisions are made very, very quickly because if you are a step behind, you've kind of lost the game. And I think that creates the unique challenge and opportunity for diversity of thoughts. So, how do you move quickly and, in those moments, slow down enough to really capture all of the ideas on the table that really will help you understand the reality of your customers as that changed it so quickly. And I think that's the unique opportunity for us as we look ahead, as we deploy, how do we maintain that really dynamic focus you bring and, you know, slow down to go fast, to help the leaders be more curious to really understand what matters to the people and to the customer. 

And then, again, to conduct the voices into the way that move fast again. And I think that is, I think, the nut we will crack in the next year or so. 

Semone Bamboat (18:17): I agree, Tony. And I think you're gonna see that theme through all of the other classes that we have. I think someone will most likely bring that up because the pace is very quick, but we do need to slow down to hear everyone's voice. 

Dominika Galusa (18:34): That leads me actually to my next question because I know that you've just launched the program. So, what are the top behavior changes that you expect from this program? 

Semone Bamboat (18:45): So, we are hoping that through workshops with leadership outside of just human resources and/or the D&I team, that we kind of expand our reach. So, for example, when leaders in our marketing or our PR teams or our fashion teams are developing product or fashion shows, or marketing tools and campaigns, they are also keeping in mind this diversity. Not only diversity in terms of ethnicity but all forms of diversity. And we are really hoping that this skill building becomes a true business focus for us because at the end of the day, the more diverse we are, the more creative we are, the better our results will be. 

Tony Rogers (19:30): Semone, one thing that that reminds me of, a focus on the following that within the workshops in the other formats we deliver INCLUDE in is helping leaders understand what matters to different identity groups, particularly the identity groups who may have experienced marginalization or some kind of discrimination. So, when we look at the -isms, ableism, ageism, sexism, et cetera, that, as your brand officers, as your merchandisers become more aware, they're more sensitive to what matters to your customers, who may represent these identity groups. So, we think this is very important. 

And one of the concepts we look at is microaggressions, and so how do people feel or how do they, how they're impacted when they see imagery that looks nothing like them, which has been, of course, a big topic of debate in fashion. So, what we are looking at very closely, very thoughtfully to help create that awareness that would translate into helping reach the market. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (20:31): So, as we look ahead and we think about the future of DE&I in the fashion industry and at Capri Holdings, Semone, what would you consider to be a win in the fashion industry when thinking about DE&I? 

Semone Bamboat (20:45): I think the win would be a few things. Number one, just the overall increase of diversity within the industry, just like why we are setting forth this foundation and expanding who comes in to the industry. And secondly, like we keep discussing, for the images that we see through fashion, to be openly diverse most of the time, that it's not something that we see once in a while in campaigns, but it is that most campaigns, most runway shows are diverse in all aspects. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (21:27): And also, it makes me think, as you were saying before, the importance of the diverse perspective, diverse thinking, especially when we're talking about the arts and fashion. It’s creativity, and creativity comes from different thinking and different backgrounds, different experiences, so that's important in any industry but when we're talking about the arts and culture, it's more important than anything else. 

Tony Rogers (21:50): Well, you provoked a really important thought there, Roberta, is creativity also emerges when we feel safe, and we really don't bring in our best creativity unless we are feeling psychologically safe. And so, this whole effort INCLUDE, this whole journey around this landscape is how do we create psychological safety so people bring in their best selves and that could be tied to my ethnicity, my culture, my background, and yet, also it could be what's uniquely inside of me, the way I think, my cognitive style. You know, I think we're seeing more and more focus on neurodiversity and how people learn differently. And even skills, our abilities are not normative, can be valuable strengths. 

And so, we are just growing so rapidly here in our way of viewing the world and what people can do. It's truly exciting. I think that's kind of the whole theme of our Transform Talent Podcast is the potential that exists in our world, our people, if we can just open our eyes too. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (22:51): Absolutely. I, I feel very energized after this, this episode. It was a wonderful conversation with both of you. 

Dominika Galusa (22:57): And as we talk about diversity in any shape or form, we've just launched a report with Made By Dyslexia, where we talk about benefits of neurodiversity in workforce and how it can shape organizations of the future.  

Semone Bamboat (23:14): I was actually gonna say something very similar. My daughter is actually dyslexic, and how I am working with her, amongst many other learning disabilities, and she's very dedicated to fashion and to actually design versus doing her math work, for example. I feel like we are in a good place now that that will only improve. And, and through your podcast, like you just said, and for people to understand more about what it is like to have a disability and that there are so many benefits to people that do have that they could bring to your workplace will be great. But I feel positive that that will improve to the next generation. 

Roberta Cucchiaro (23:57): Yeah. Absolutely. There's a lot to look forward to. So, thank you so much for joining us today. This was the 13th episode of the Transform Talent Podcast. We hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as we did and you, you found it very inspiring and some very useful food for thought. 

And to all our listeners, don't forget to subscribe and leave us some review in your favorite podcast listening app. See you at the next episode. Bye-bye. 

Outro (24:26): The Transform Talent Podcast, because we know the right talent transforms organizations and helps your business flourish. Talent Solutions, business and talent aligned.