Nike on Tuesday confirmed to Retail Dive that its chief diversity and inclusion officer, Kellie Leonard, was leaving the company to "pursue other interests" after 18 years working at Nike in various roles.
Felicia Mayo will take over Leonard's role with a new title: chief talent, diversity and culture officer.
The change in the role constitutes a new way of approaching diversity and inclusion at Nike by bringing talent, diversity and inclusion, and culture together. It's an intentional structural change to weave in those efforts from the start of the hiring process.
2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for diversity and inclusion efforts at retailers, as protests over the police killing of George Floyd put pressure on companies to make plans for actionable change in racial diversity and equality.
Athletics retailers found themselves at the center of some of those criticisms, as customers challenged their responses and pushed them for more accountability. Adidas, in particular, faced a wave of backlash from employees who formed a coalition demanding change at the athletics retailer. In response, the company in June announced new hiring goals and investments in the Black community. Later that month, the retailer's head of human resources, Karen Parkin, stepped down.
Under Armour in a July 22 news post outlined its own recent steps to improve diversity and inclusion, which include publishing its employee representation statistics annually and filling 30% of director and above positions with Black, Indigenous and People of Color candidates.
Even with various hiring goals announced, it remains difficult to understand the depth of diversity issues at athletics retailers when so few provide employee statistics on racial diversity. Nike is the exception, providing detailed statistics on company diversity in annual reports. Last year, the company was 56.3% non-white, but the number of people of color decreased markedly among more senior-level positions.
Promises from Under Armour and Lululemon to publish similar annual reports, however, move the needle further on accountability.
While certainly not alone, the athletics space has been fraught with diversity issues for years, as retailers — including Nike — have faced sex discrimination suits, racial discrimination suits and criticism for catering to certain populations without backing it up in their leadership. Indeed, in 10 years of data Retail Dive collected about women in top leadership positions at athletics retailers, not much meaningfully changed, despite a heavy focus on catering to female clientele.
While by no means certain of success, this move by Nike is aimed at bringing a greater focus on diversity and inclusion into the company's processes earlier, starting with hiring.