The head of global human resources at footwear and apparel giant Adidas informed the company last week she has decided to step down after 23 years with the company. Her departure follows a controversial remark she made that sparked outrage among Black employees, and now Adidas said it is making changes to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
With “mutual agreement,” the Adidas supervisory board approved the termination of Karen Parkin’s appointment. Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted will assume responsibility for global human resources on an interim basis until a successor is appointed.
Parkin’s departure follows a report in the Wall Street Journal of a June 15 letter penned by 83 Adidas employees calling on the company’s supervisory board to investigate her. It also requested the creation of a platform to voice allegations of racism and for anti-retaliation protection against speaking up.
The criticisms reportedly followed a comment made by Parkin at an all-employee meeting last year in which she referred to racism as “noise” that is only discussed in America and said she didn’t believe the brand had an issue with racism, the Wall Street Journal reported. Adidas employees have said, however, that it has not been easy for Black people to advance at the company.
In the company’s announcement of her departure, Parkin said, “I am deeply committed to our goals of creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable company. While we have made progress in many areas, there is much more work to be done. However, it has become clear to me that to unify the organization, it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change.”
“Her decision to leave the company reflects that commitment and her belief that a new HR leader will best drive forward the pace of change that adidas needs at this time,” said Adidas Supervisory Board Chairman Igor Landau. “Therefore, it is with respect for her decision that we accept her resignation.”
Rørsted noted Parkin “played a significant part in our focus over the past few weeks as to how we move forward as a company to fight racial inequality and build a more diverse adidas.” Going forward, Rørsted said the executive board and leadership team will continue its “momentum in human resources and to build a more diverse and inclusive adidas.”
Other diversity efforts
On June 9, Adidas announced several actions it would take to improve on its diversity and inclusion efforts. Referring to the death of George Floyd and protests that have spread across the country, Rørsted commented that the events of recent weeks “have caused all of us to reflect on what we can do to confront the cultural and systemic forces that sustain racism. We have had to look inward to ourselves as individuals and our organization and reflect on systems that disadvantage and silence Black individuals and communities.”
“While we have talked about the importance of inclusion, we must do more to create an environment in which all our employees feel safe, heard and have equal opportunity to advance their careers,” Rørsted added. “As adidas, we will create a lasting change, and we will do it now.”
The company said it would do the following:
Invest $120 million in Black communities: Adidas announced it will invest $120 million through 2025 toward U.S. initiatives focused on ending racial injustice and/or supporting Black communities.
Invest in university scholarships for Black employees: Over the next five years, Adidas announced it will finance 50 scholarships each year for Black students at partner schools.
Diversify its talent pool: A minimum of 30 percent of all new positions in the United States at Adidas and Reebok will be filled with Black and Latinx people. A new target has also been established to fill 50 percent of all open positions with diverse talent, inclusive of all diverse categories (i.e., gender, sexual orientation, those with disabilities, and veterans). It has also created a new target of having 20 to 23 percent of Black and LatinX employees in corporate roles by 2025 and 12 percent in leadership positions in the United States.
Enhanced policies and procedures
Adidas also said it will develop new U.S. anti-discriminatory and harassment standards, which will be governed by a third-party investigator. “All allegations raised by employees will be treated with the utmost urgency in confidence and any violation will result in discipline up to termination,” Adidas said.
Additionally, it is establishing a global committee to accelerate inclusion and equality, sponsored by Rørsted. This committee includes company decision-makers, as well as representatives from all Adidas regions and people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. It will focus on the advancement of underrepresented groups and drive company-wide changes, including a new program to ensure fair and equitable hiring.