Adidas might be showing diversity in its ad campaigns and collaborations with Beyonce, Kanye West, and Pharrell, but according to a new report from The New York Times, this level of diversity doesn’t reach its corporate offices.
Of the nearly 1,700 employees at Adidas’ US headquarters in Portland, less than 4.5% identify as black, The Times wrote, adding that nearly 78% are white.
In interviews with The Times, former and current employees said that a lack of diversity in the company has created a discriminatory working environment and some employees feel marginalized.
These employees, who wished to remain anonymous to protect their job, told The Times that black employees often sit together in the company cafeteria. Some were reportedly told that this made their white colleagues “nervous” and could hurt their chances of getting a promotion if it seemed as if they were not trying to fit the “Adidas mold.”
In a statement emailed to Business Insider, a spokesperson for Adidas said that the company has recently expanded its diversity and inclusion team in the US to focus on underrepresented communities.
“Our North American diversity strategy also includes programs to help bring new employees from diverse backgrounds to positions at the company’s corporate headquarters. While we have made progress in these areas, we recognize there is much more to be done, and we are committed to doing it,” she added.
But these discrimination concerns were previously voiced in a letter sent by one employee (on behalf of minorities) to Adidas’ US president, Zion Armstrong, last year.
“North America senior leaders foster, encourage and reward an exclusive all-white environment made up of the same individuals that are consistently promoted and spotlighted,” the letter said. “They ostracize people of color and cultivate a high school ‘clique’ environment.”
Some employees told The Times that they are sometimes the only black person in meetings and their input is not always valued — and to the detriment of the business.
Without a diverse selection of people and voices, negative stereotypes have been able to creep into marketing campaigns, these employees said, referencing recent missteps such as when Adidas released all-white sneakers in a line that was meant to commemorate Black History Month. Adidas removed the sneakers after this provoked a backlash.