Not the Same Old Diversity Doublespeak from Levi's

by Julie Graber | on 10 Aug 2020

Like his many counterparts, the CEO of Levi Strauss, Chip Bergh has spoken out on the issue of racism and the lack of diversity in the company’s leadership ranks. 

His recent interview on CNBC was refreshingly candid when compared to what we’ve been hearing from many of his peers. When asked how their diversity data had informed their commitment to do better, Bergh didn’t mince words; he replied that they didn’t need the data to identify the problem, it was more a “little bit of look to your left and look to your right.”

"It didn’t really take the data to identify the problem, [it was more] a little bit of look to your left and look to your right."

Levi’s has also been more specific about the actions they are taking to create a more diverse organizations, which include requiring that half of the interviewees for open positions to be racially diverse, hiring a diversity and inclusion officer who will operate at the executive level, strengthening their ties to HBCUs to create a more diverse pipeline, and working to add a Black leader to their board. Nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a start.

Still the company has its work cut out for them. While their numbers for their overall workforce for both race and gender are decent, the diversity of their leadership ranks is dismal. 

  • Black individuals make up 18% of the workforce overall, but they are only 5% of the corporate staff and only 2% of the individuals at the executive level (there are no Black executive officers). There are also no black board members.
  • Women make up the majority of the workforce overall (57%), and are 44% of the executive leadership, but there is only one woman among the seven executive officers. Four women (33%) serve on their 12-member board.  

I thought it was also worth noting the following:

  • Levi's CEO and executive leadership have all taken a reduction in their base salary as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Levi's board is foregoing their cash compensation for the foreseeable future.

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