Beauty is more than skin deep, and fashion should be too. This, according to Maggie Adhami-Boynton, founder of ShopThing, an app-based clothing retailer and one of North America’s first live video commerce platforms. Adhami-Boynton says that diversity is a core value that must be honored and celebrated at every level of a brand, retailer, or platform.
“The need for more diversity in the fashion industry is something that should come as no shock,” Adhami-Boynton observes. She says that while fashion is headed in the right direction by including more models of different sizes and identities, it remains all too easy for the purpose of diversity to get lost amid the marketing.
But Adhami-Boynton is no passive observer. Prior to founding ShopThing, the Harvard MBA was a 15-year veteran of technology companies in North America and Europe. Now, as one of INC Magazine’s Top 100 Female Founders, she has focused on creating a culture of diversity and inclusion — one that is supportive of all identities and backgrounds.
“The ShopThing leadership team is 75% women and 100% persons of color,” Adhami-Boynton notes. “This in an industry where on average 31% of a workforce is made up of women. Overall, our company is now composed of 76% women and 56% persons of color.”
Adhami-Boynton credits three major principles for achieving real diversity:
1. Know your why
Adhami-Boynton says that the first step in creating a diverse workforce is having the right purpose or knowing your “why.”
“A company’s reasons for building a balanced workforce need to be deeper than jumping on a bandwagon” she adds, recommending that employers and founders ask themselves a simple question: What is your driver for change?
“Diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t to be simply crossed off a checklist,” Adhami-Boynton clarifies. “They should be core values.”
2. Evaluate your company’s makeup
Focus is essential for any company, but their focus is often shortsighted. “Identify your blindspots by taking a look at the gaps in your business,” Adami-Boynton advises. “For example, what does your executive team look like? Is it made up of individuals of different ages, genders, ethnicities, experience levels, and so on? Are they coming together to collaborate and make decisions?”
While it’s natural for people to be more comfortable around people who look and think like themselves, this can impede a business’s growth. That’s why one ShopThing blog post recalled iconic looks created by black fashion designers, including Ann Lowe’s silk taffeta wedding dress for Jackie Kennedy, alongside a powerful message: “These talents are nothing short of exceptional in their own right, period. And as a group that’s been denied — and continues to be denied — power for centuries, it’s about time that these amazing designers take the spotlight.”
3. Celebrate Differences
While it has been common to showcase traditional fashions from other cultures since Yves Saint-Laurent’s 1976 Russian Collection fashion show, Adami-Boynton says that showcasing diversity at work is even more important.
“Honoring the holidays and events that relate to your team provides incredible opportunities for learning, connection and relationship building,” she says. “The population of creatives is so diverse already. Companies don’t realize just how broad and how deep the workforce is culturally. If we would stop stopping at the surface, all of us would benefit.”
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