by daniel johnson
November 22, 2023
Lululemon has struggled to overcome allegations that it targets a very specific customer: white women with money.
Lululemon has received complaints from six former employees at one of its Chicago stores to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.according to fashion businessIn addition to the six former employees, an additional 14 current and former employees described the company’s culture as unwelcoming to Black people.
In June 2020, Lululemon, like many other companies in the wake of George Floyd, pledged to create a more diverse workplace and issued the following statement: “The Black Lives Matter movement served as a powerful catalyst within Lululemon. After many real and impactful conversations with underrepresented employees and the larger community, Lululemon’s senior leadership team , we have committed to standing up and funding inclusivity, diversity, equity, and action within our organizations to support meaningful and lasting change in the world.”
However, according to the employees we spoke to, fashion business, Lululemon’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action department, which is a core part of its platform, was not allowed to have any significant impact.
Conesha Armstrong, former store operations manager at the Hyde Park store, said her time at the company felt like a game of smoke and mirrors.[Lululemon] It makes you feel like that will make you more cooperative and won’t add to the history of microaggressive behavior, but that’s not actually the case. ”
Lululemon has struggled to overcome allegations that it targets a very specific customer: white women with money. Alison Torres Burtka wrote in her 2021 op-ed: prism report In 2004, company founder Chip Wilson reportedly claimed that part of the reason the name was chosen was because he was happy to see Japanese people trying to say it. That’s what it means. Wilson said, “The reason the Japanese liked it was because [my former skateboard brand, ‘Homeless’] Because it had an L in it, and Japanese marketing companies couldn’t come up with a brand name with an L in it…it’s hard for them to pronounce. ”
Wilson, of course, denied that statement in a 2005 interview, but it was a relatively common sense move when Instagram users demanded that the brand be renamed during the #StopAsianHate protests. The company responded as follows: Know that this is not who we are today, nor is this the future we would choose. Our founder hadn’t been part of Lululemon for many years. We are focused on showing support for the Asian community. ”
As the brand prepared to arrive on Chicago’s South Side, the University of Chicago’s student newspaper chicago maroon, heralded its arrival as another sign of the area’s encroaching gentrification. Hyde Park store manager Michael Collins said Lululemon management resisted his efforts to staff the Hyde Park store with black talent. Mr Collins said: fashion business He said he was directed to hire more white and Asian workers to better reflect the University of Chicago’s population. Undeterred, Collins went ahead with his original plan. Collins, who also filed a complaint with the EEOC, told the outlet that it took him eight interviews to get the job, compared to two for a white man.
Stacia Jones, a corporate lawyer who previously worked at Abercrombie & Fitch and handled employee lawsuits against the company, was hired to lead the IDEA team, but Jones was also director of employee relations, which led to allegations of racial discrimination. Things got complicated when investigating. Discrimination from employees. When Armstrong described an incident in which a white customer audibly called her “off-brand,” Jones was unsupportive of her, she said.
Amber Cabral, a DEI strategist not affiliated with Lululemon, said the way the company structures roles can create confusion about whether an organization’s roles need to be clearly defined. There is usually distance between DEI leaders and those responsible for managing employee complaints. Based on employee complaints, Lululemon may have wanted Jones to be more of a watchdog — more of a protector of employees’ interests instead of protecting employees — but whether Jones actually Maybe it wasn’t necessarily the job you were hired for. do. Cabral said. fashion business, “DEI leaders need to be able to recognize that just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s fair,” Cabral said. “This is important because when you’re in the DEI sector, equity is central.”
Armstrong said fashion business, “[They] “I was told it didn’t work out with Stacia,” Armstrong said. “I felt that if I wanted to move up in the company…I would probably be blocked or retaliated against because pointing out problems in the company is problematic.”
Summarizing his impressions from his time at the company, Armstrong said, “This company started with a bias. Basically, ‘We only want tall, blonde, white women who are a size 6. ‘You have to do it,”’ Armstrong explained. “A lot of the things they’re putting in place, even the language they use, are still fundamental to this company.”
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