The fashion industry is, rather ridiculously, a leader in tokenistic diversity and inclusion.
Overtly, too; from underrepresentation to overt racism and prejudice, the industry at large has approached such issues with idle handles, making meaningless ‘commitments to D&I’ when they’ve been called out for all-white work forces or discontinuing racism items from retail long after they’ve been produced and promoted.
While some brands—like Chanel, Gucci and H&M—have introduced thoughtful corporate initiatives to increase inclusivity and hire candidates from black and minority ethnic groups in recent years, there is still a lot more to do.
Which is where HIVE Diversity, a new recruiting platform that connects employers with a unique community of diverse entry-level applicants, comes in,
Though the business is just over one month old, it launched with the support of Saks Fifth Avenue, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Chobani, Atlantic Records, Steve Madden, and Wells Fargo
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, Lori Spicer Robertson, says she finds the platform revolutionary. “I recall, as a student, how daunting this process can be—trying to navigate the labyrinth of career pursuits—but now HIVE is providing a solution tailored to meet students wherever they are on this journey.
“Together, we are wielding the power of disruptive innovation to truly force companies and organizations to reimagine how we cast a wider net to attract and recruit top talent. Through this partnership, Saks can be bolder and even more intentional in our efforts to maximize diverse recruiting.”
For all launch partners, HIVE addresses the challenge on both sides: companies need help finding a diverse pool of talent, and candidates not only need to be prepared for these opportunities, but know that they exist.
“We partnered with HIVE Diversity because of their commitment to democratizing the career process for all students,” says Jaryn Bloom, Group President of Retail at Capri
“Capri is focused on attracting, advancing and advocating for a workforce that reflects the diversity of the world around us [and] our commitment to diversity extends beyond representation.”
“There are issues around diversity being imperative for management and leadership, but not entry-level,” says Byron Slosar, founder & CEO of HIVE. “How can the industry combat this? Specific to retail, we are focused on helping our partners reach all students—not just those who are familiar with their brands.”
Reaching such candidates early enough, so they have an equitable opportunity to understand and obtain the skills needed to be successful entry-level employees, he says, is imperative.
“By simplifying and democratizing the career process for all students, HIVE removes the questions of ‘where do you go to school’ and ‘who do you know’ from the conversation and has built one new road that works for any student who’s willing to work hard.
“By focusing on preparing, pipelining, and placing college students into the workforce, HIVE is uniquely resourced to create systemic change by empowering the next generation of talent to become the next generation of managers and senior leadership.”
HIVE’s COO, Dakotah Eddy, feels there is no better time to launch than now, too, despite the pandemic’s ongoing threat to global business.
“D&I has been a topic on the minds of business leaders for years, but is certainly in the forefront of America today, as a resurgence of urgency around systemic racism unfolded this summer,” she says. “There is a confluence of factors, from the normalization of social justice conversations in the workplace, to the next generation of talent’s increased focus on corporate values like inclusion. Retailers today are acknowledging D&I issues more, thanks in part to pressure from—and listening to—the consumers, communities, and suppliers that make up their unique ecosystems.”
As a former D&I leader for brands like Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Tiffany & Co, Eddy also sees HIVE as an answer for large and small businesses who have well-intentioned, yet met-with-contention, commitments to D&I.
“As an operations-minded person, I understand how it can be hard to ‘operationalize’ an inclusive culture, especially when considering the sprawling landscape of retail, which can include multiple headquarters, suppliers, and front-line associates and leaders in hundreds of stores across the globe.”
Still, HIVE’s adoption rate is promising. Accenture
In turn, they just closed $3million in funding, with investors including former Time Inc. Chief Resources Officer Gregory Giangrande and former Lionsgate Co-President Steve Beeks.
“The reception from industry, specifically retail and fashion, has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Slosar. “Companies have very quickly seen the immediate impact and value of our innovation and technology.
“A challenge will be continuing to push the envelope and encourage others to come along for the ride.”
He also feels, specific to the hiring landscape, there remains consistent inconsistency in recruitment needs and processes.
“While we look forward to the world normalizing a bit into spring and summer 2021, we remain focused on controllable variables—partnering with companies who have meaningful engagement opportunities for our students—and also continuing to invest in the growth of our student and recent graduate community.”
In the next five years, the company will look to grow its HIVE of students en masse (adding talent outside of the traditional four-year college experience), as well as its corporate partners.