Brands are leveraging the culture of underrepresented communities to make billions, but are not also providing opportunities for these same people to claim a seat at the table. To put it bluntly, this is inequality. But at Claima, we exist to help change this dynamic.
“What disappoints me, and one of the reasons I left the industry, is it could do so much more than it does. They have the consciousness of these kids, and then they do nothing more than to try and sell them more product,” said D’Wayne Edwards, founder of the Pensole Footwear Design Academy.
At a very young age, I knew that my interest in sportswear and streetwear culture was far from the average kid. I was obsessed with sports, sneakers, music, and fashion.
But growing up as a young black boy in Baton Rouge, LA, I had never seen or heard stories of anyone who worked in these industries outside of retail. I knew how to buy clothes and sneakers, but I didn't know how to better my own situation through my passion for this culture. And there was no clear pipeline of how to get there. How do you become what you want to become when you can’t find the examples represented by people that look like you? Well, it’s nearly impossible!
With effort and guidance from mentors and allies, I eventually found my way into the sportswear industry at the age of 26. I was soon redefining how brands fostered community through social media, creating direct to consumer product lines, and managing a $50 million dollar footwear business. However, as I was advancing in my career, what I didn't see were more people from my background or underrepresented communities at the table with me. Which is shocking considering that "over a three year period, diverse companies see 2.3x the cash flow per employee compared to their less diverse peers." Fortune
Although I’ve been successful in my career path of choice, I have discovered that many aspiring and established underrepresented professionals don’t have this same opportunity. Through collaborating with corporate experts in Human Resources, Talent Acquisition, Diversity Recruiting, and Management Consulting Firms to research why this is happening, three things are very clear: 1) Underrepresented professionals don't know the steps to get into their industry of choice, 2) Steps to career advancement are inconsistent, and 3) Homogenous leadership is creating environments that are not inclusive.
I found myself frustrated by this information because brands are leveraging the culture of underrepresented communities to make billions, but are not also providing opportunities for these same people to claim a seat at the table. To put it bluntly, this is inequality.
But at Claima, we exist to help change this dynamic. My partner Belarmino Frogozo and I have co-founded a company called Claima. “Claima” stands for claiming a seat at the table. This professional development brand leverages storytelling from professionals in an effort to bring equality to everyone. “Exposure to other people’s stories breaks down stereotypes, which leads to more equitable hiring + promotion.” Harvard Business Review
Tomorrow, July 30th, we’ll be sharing a glimpse into my professional career in the sportswear industry through a short story titled Claim a Name. In this story, I'll be interviewed by Mary Morton, founder of W.I.N.G.S and former NIKE, inc. Human Resource professional of nearly 22 years.
The full interview Claima a Seat at the Table: A Collection of Stories with Bimma premiers on September 23rd at claimastories.com.
And that’s only the beginning. We will follow this up with the stories of other professionals, not just in sportswear, but across multiple industries. We believe these stories will help create diverse pipelines, retain top talent, and drive business growth.
We believe that Stories Bring Equality.
We can't do this alone, we need your help. Please share this post on your social media channels and within your professional networks. We've included a few graphics for you to use below.
Article Link: https://www.claimastories.com/
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