by the Editorial Staff
How did the environment you grew up in influence your growth? What about your education?
The people in my life and the environment I grew up in have significantly impacted who I am today and my perspective on diversity and inclusion. I grew up in Switzerland, but I also studied in Germany, Spain, and England. I first experienced the importance of diversity and inclusion when I relocated from a French community to a Swiss one as a child.
What was your first professional role and what expectations did you have when you started there?
I started my career in banking as an intern in HR before switching to wealth management for a few years. I wanted to experience what it meant to be an employee before returning to HR. I then had other experiences in business development and communication before joining Philip Morris, where we started the Diversity & Inclusion department (D&I), and I worked on many activities. After 7 years of learning and progressing in the D&I field, I dedicated myself to consulting and coaching at various organizations. Then, in February 2022, I happily joined VF.
How have you seen Diversity and Inclusion change in the last 5 years? What does Diversity mean, to you?
Over the last five years, the evolution of D&I has been remarkable. This is not a subject that companies can ignore anymore, particularly in the wake of recent movements such as MeToo and Black Lives Matter. D&I has progressively gained relevance within companies' strategic frameworks and objectives, for two main reasons. On the one hand, society now expects companies to deal with the topic of diversity and inclusion, by facing and solving its issues. It is the right thing to do. On the other hand, from an economic standpoint, D&I drives business performance and growth. When I joined VF, D&I was already embedded within the company, particularly in the US. The creation of a specific position in the EMEA region for this role highlights the growing relevance of the topic.
For me diversity is about accepting differences, and inclusion is about creating space for employees to feel they belong. If you do not have inclusion, diversity cannot flourish. My key motto is 'If you don't intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude.'
What are your key commitments?
I want to make a positive impact at VF and help to create a work environment where employees can excel in an inclusive culture.
Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, as well as leadership education and commitment, I am helping to review our wider organizational system, including its processes and practices, to ensure there are no biases and to correct them when necessary.
Through the co-creation of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), I am helping associates to focus on our three strategic areas: strengthening an inclusive culture, building a stronger connection with consumers, and progressing on the social impact we want to have as a company.
Why is Diversity a strategic lever for sustainable growth?
Diversity, coupled with inclusion, is a strategic lever for many reasons. To understand our consumers' needs and expectations, we need a diverse workforce that reflects our consumers.
It is also the right thing to do and enables us to progress on our ESG and the UN Sustainable Goals. At VF, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action (IDEA) is a critical asset that enables us to perform well and allows us to attract and retain talent, drive innovation, and connect with our consumers, leading to a positive social impact.
What are the issues that need to be resolved today and what positive changes will the near future bring? How would you like to effect change?
The pandemic tested the limits of the employee-employer relationship, which is now shifting from one of employment to one of partnership. It has never been more important to address pay equality, workplace equity, racial justice, and human rights in the workplace.
Finding the right balance for new ways of working is also a critical element of today's talent trend, as employees have come to expect to have the option of hybrid working. To meet these expectations, VF is adopting policies that center people, as well as listening activities, favoring direct and inclusive engagement with employees.
We also need to increase gender balance at a leadership level. By 2030, our aspirational goal is to have 50% of our director positions and positions above that level be filled by women.
How do you define an inclusive workplace?
An inclusive workplace is one where employees can be their authentic selves because they feel valued, respected and listened to. It is an environment free from microaggressions and unfair treatment based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race, disability, religion or any other individual characteristic.
ERGs (or employee networks) are a key element of our IDEA strategy. Our ERGs are based on shared beliefs or life experiences, with the purpose of creating a space for community and connection, and to foster a sense of belonging, visibility, and greater understanding of differences and dimensions of diversity at VF. In EMEA, our ERGs have grown organically in the last four years. Currently, we have three global ERGs that are formally active under the regional and global IDEA umbrellas:
1. WOVEN – promoting women's leadership;
2. ACE Diversity – multicultural groups that focus on building an inclusive culture;
3. PRIDE – creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ associates.
VF is also developing a fourth ERG pillar focused on people with disabilities. We have already hosted webinars and activities and are currently working on building a global strategy.
Laetitia Tierny, Director, Inclusion & Diversity (IDEA) EMEA