Taking action: What individuals, companies, and the industry can do

A more diverse, equitable, and inclusive fashion industry is within reach. But individuals, companies, and institutions in the broader ecosystem must do their part by taking action in key opportunity areas.

Actions individuals can take

Start within: Nearly 60 percent of all survey respondents reported experiencing microaggressions

  • Actively engage in unconscious bias training—both employer provided and individually sourced
  • Audit and make necessary changes to your own biases and assumptions about underrepresented groups across the full spectrum of diversity

Actively listen

  • Create safe spaces for honest and respectful dialogue between people from underrepresented groups and others about bias and mistreatment (for example, when listening to others talk about their experiences, try not to get defensive or focus too much your own feelings)
  • Get involved with employee resource groups and roundtables to learn about colleagues’ different cultures and experiences

Advocate and mentor: Only 30 percent of all respondents reported having an advocate

  • Mentor and advocate employees who come from a different background than you (for example, if they are of a different race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class) to ensure that you are contributing to a more inclusive support system
  • Include a diverse set of employees on teams/projects and create stretch opportunities to support their development

Speak up: 52 percent of all respondents reported not speaking up when they observed biased behaviors

  • Publicly acknowledge or give credit for contributions, ideas, and work
  • If you see something, speak up, especially when you observe discrimination (privately and/or publicly) against those from underrepresented groups
  • Acknowledge when you’ve said something hurtful without getting defensive

Enlist others

  • Reach out to peers to enlist them in getting more involved with gender and racial equality and antiracism efforts
  • Organize inclusive social events that cater to all attendees (for example, consider dietary preferences and whether events are family friendly)
  • Normalize listing pronouns and name pronunciations in email signatures or other digital tools (for example, videoconference displays)

Educate and share resources

  • Learn about and share with colleagues information and resources about training, development, promotions, sponsorships, and mentorships
  • Educate yourself on labor laws and procedures to empower yourself in the workplace

Actions that companies can take within their organization


  1. Fundamental
    • Understand all representation baselines
  2. Building blocks
    • Include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) metrics as part of the review process
  3. Leading
    • Set and track annual diversity aspirations
    • Hold leadership across the organization accountable

Attracting and hiring

  1. Fundamental
    • Standardize and communicate hiring process
    • Require diverse interview slates
    • Require skills-based reasons for hiring
    • Launch compensation and pay-equity audits, and adjust pay if needed
  2. Building blocks
    • Strategically engage overlooked communities through partnerships
    • Recruit from “nontraditional” sources
    • Balance referrals with other talent sources
    • Provide fair compensation for all interns
  3. Leading
    • Include frontline staff in corporate pipeline
    • Recruit externally from adjacent industries
    • Offer housing stipends or stipends for other living expenses, especially for those demonstrating financial need

Nurturing and retaining

  1. Fundamental
    • Provide clear and transparent promotion criteria
    • Mandate consistent DEI, unconscious bias, and antiracism training
    • Develop inclusive work events
    • Create truly safe spaces for discussion on DEI topics
  2. Building blocks
    • Implement a feedback structure
    • Track leadership sponsorship
    • Formalize mentorship programs
    • Measure and track key inclusion indicators
  3. Leading
    • Develop equitable senior-leadership pathways
    • Provide support for new managers
    • Create “reverse mentorship” programs
    • Reduce instances of being an “only”

Product and service offerings

  1. Fundamental
    • Track feedback and product experiences with customers of all backgrounds and identities for well-rounded product input
  2. Building blocks
    • Expand range of products to include wider size ranges (for example, petites and plus-size) and color options (for example, wide spectrum of skin tones for neutral-toned garments)
  3. Leading
    • Address unmet needs for underserved populations (for example, developing an adaptive clothing range)

Vendors and suppliers

  1. Fundamental
    • Hire diverse vendors and freelancers (for example, photographers, makeup and hair teams)
  2. Building blocks
    • Review diversity of supply, material, and product sourcing (for example, source from a mix of businesses owned by women or people of color)
  3. Leading
    • Ask for DEI metrics and include requirements for diversity as part of the vendor RFP process

Communications and partnerships

  1. Fundamental
    • Ensure that marketing materials contain inclusive language and feature diverse range of models
  2. Building blocks
    • Partner and collaborate with like-minded associations and companies
  3. Leading
    • Publicly report out organization’s DEI metrics and action plans
    • Fund scholarships through key educational institutions (for example, fashion schools and historically black colleges and universities)

Actions to consider for institutions within the broader fashion industry

Fashion schools

Improve student body representation

  • Actively diversify student body through marketing/recruiting at underrepresented high schools, communities, and regions
  • Support student body diversity through grants and scholarships focusing on underrepresented and underserved high schools, communities, and regions

Incorporate DEI in curriculum

  • Train professors on being more sensitive to issues around DEI (for example, not requiring students to purchase expensive fabrics for projects)
  • Incorporate DEI into curriculum (for example, how to design adaptive clothing)


Foster discussions that lead to action

  • Create safe spaces for underrepresented and/or intersectional groups to express shared experiences (with clearly defined expectations and ground rules for “safe spaces”)
  • Convene roundtables between underrepresented/intersectional groups and senior leaders to share experiences and co-create actions without repercussion/retaliation
  • Create allyship programs/training sessions for those who want to learn

Early interventions

  • Raise awareness on breadth of jobs in fashion through broad marketing campaigns and targeted outreach, especially in underserved neighborhoods and precollege students

Long-term mentorship programs

  • Develop long-term/company-agnostic mentorship programs (for example, Black Retail Action Group; six to eight years in length) to more broadly systemize mentorship across the industry

Integrative development programs

  • Develop educational and training programs that address the future state of fashion and incorporate knowledge and skills in technology, digital, AI

Provide tools and resources

  • Offer resources including database of compensation, suggested DEI surveys, and best practices in setting and tracking DEI metrics, especially for small and medium-size organizations

Provide funding

  • Fund scholarships and grants for advancing DEI initiatives (for example, paid internships, housing stipend support, professional DEI trainings)

This list of actions is from the State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion report, February 2021, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and PVH Corp.