Levi Strauss & Co.’s Diversity Problem — And Our Plan to Fix It
BLACK PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER
George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police exposed systemic failures that define Black American life — not just in policing, but in representation, opportunity and power. These failures reach and shape every corner and conference room in the United States, including those at Levi Strauss & Co.
In the spirit of self-reflection, we’ve decided to publish our diversity statistics for the first time in our 167-year history. As you’ll see below, the numbers reveal dire underrepresentation that requires immediate action and a sustained effort to correct.
On the surface, we are a diverse company. Women make up 57% of the workforce and are well-represented at every level, and fewer than 40% of our employees are white.
All Levi Strauss & Co. U.S. employees:
- White 37%
- Hispanic or Latinx 28%
- Black or African-American 18%
- Asian 10%
- Two or more races 3%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 1%
- American Indian or Alaskan Native 1%
But a cursory examination reveals a tiered system within our company: Black people make up only 5% of our corporate staff, and Black representation plummets at each level of our corporate structure. Ten percent of our contributors — employees who aren’t managers — are Black or African-American. Less than 2% of our executive level is Black. We have no Black employees on the Global Leadership Team. And no Black board members.
Our racial diversity is concentrated in the retail stores, distribution centers and lower levels of our corporate structure, and we get dramatically whiter as we move up.
Levi Strauss & Co. U.S. corporate employees:
- White 55%
- Asian 23%
- Hispanic or Latinx 10%
- Black or African-American 5%
- Two or more races 3%
The lack of racial diversity in leadership positions affects every aspect of life at Levi Strauss & Co. We aren’t recruiting or hiring enough Black employees. Too few Black people are in positions to make hiring decisions. For generations, our corporate culture has accommodated institutional inequality. We’ve tried to address it, but quite frankly we haven’t tried hard enough.
Levi Strauss & Co. is a proudly progressive company. We established our bona fides during the California Gold Rush and have advocated for equality for marginalized groups ever since.
We’re committed to supporting equality issues, like LGBTQ+ rights, immigration and DACA, the FAMILY Act and others. We’ve partnered with Rock the Vote to increase voter registration. In response to George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, Levi Strauss & Co. donated $100,000 to the ACLU. The Levi Strauss Foundation also gave $100,000 to LIVE FREE, an organization led by Pastor Mike McBride to curb gun violence and promote racial and economic justice.
Over the past five years, our company and the Levi Strauss Foundation together have invested more than $37 million in organizations advancing social justice and equality in the U.S.
Since 2017, we’ve launched 12 employee resource groups across the United States and Europe that give our employees a collective voice in conversations about how we run the business. (These discussions have resulted in our recent celebrations of Black History Month and Pride Month.) Two years ago, we began recruiting at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). And to better understand where we stood on our pay practices at that time, we had an outside firm analyze our compensation data, and they found no statistically significant gap.
This year, we named Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday. From now on, our American employees will have the day off to commemorate the ending of slavery in the U.S.
But we have not done nearly enough for our employees. We must do more.
Our ultimate goal is for the racial makeup of our U.S. corporate employees and our leadership at least match that of the United States. We pledge to improve the representation numbers every year as we work toward that goal. Below is what we can commit to today.
- We will hire an executive-level Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging in 2020 to lead our efforts to create a more diverse and equitable company and culture.
- We will strengthen our partnerships with HBCUs and look to them as a pipeline for talent, as we have with our internship program.
- We will update our recruiting and retention strategies to diversify our talent pool. This includes:
- Starting this year, half of interviewees for open positions will be racially diverse candidates and we will ensure that they are interviewed by a panel including racially diverse leaders.
- We will expand our leadership and development opportunities for racially diverse employees.
- In 2021, we will launch a Retail/Distribution Center to Corporate career path program to nurture and promote the incredible, diverse talent that already exists throughout our company.
- We will reinvigorate our search for a Black leader to join our board of directors.
- By the end of this year, we will train 100% of our leaders on anti-racism and racial equity, and offer training to all of our employees.
- We will run and publicly publish wage equity audits every other year, starting in Q4 2020, with the goal of maintaining fair and equitable pay.
- We will encourage all global employees to further elevate their collective voices by expanding our employee resource groups to every region around the world.
“Diversity is our strength” isn’t a slogan; it’s logical. Levi’s® products are sold on six continents, and worn on seven. We invented the blue jean, a garment worn by everyone regardless of background. In order to best represent the communities we serve, we must have a workforce that reflects those communities.
Starting today, we must eradicate the inequality at the heart of Levi Strauss & Co. Starting today, we must build a company worthy of everyone who works here. Starting today, we must begin to live our values.