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'Out of touch' | Boohoo spark diversity row after posting LinkedIn pic of new interns

Story Boohoo Group Diversity Row

Liam Soutar Press Releases, HR, Recruitment...

Boohoo has been accused of a lack of diversity after sharing a photo of its latest recruits.

As reported by the Mirror, the fashion giant posted an image to LinkedIn to show off its fresh intake of interns.

In a LinkedIn post accompanying the image of more than a dozen, mostly white, female recruits, the firm wrote: "Happy Friday. This week we welcomed our 28 interns to the Boohoo Group.

"Our new interns will be working across IT, Buying, Merchandising, E-commerce, Marketing, Design and Studio for a 12 month placement year.

"We can’t wait to see how they progress over the next year."

However, while seemingly intended to plug Boohoo’s lucrative internships, the post resulted in many negative reactions from people who were quick to point out a lack of diversity among the new trainees.


The image, which can be seen above, does depict a largely white cohort. "The lack of diversity is disturbing," one user simply wrote, while another felt the post was “not sending a good message to people of colour who would be interested in working for Boohoo!”

"Clearly out of touch. No doubt people of colour make an impact on your bottom line, yet they are not represented in your 2021 internships. Your loss”, said another comment.

Another profile felt the apparent lack of diversity was in stark contrast to the firm’s market image. They wrote: "For a brand so ready to capitalise on Black culture, Black music, Black-influenced street culture / fashion and influential Black and bi-cultural women to sell your wares, you’re sending a very clear message on how much you actually value Black and bi-cultural women professionally.”

HR Grapevine reached out to Boohoo Group for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

No ‘overnight fix’

The reaction to Boohoo’s post has been a mixture of fierce and nuanced, and not without reason - recruitment experts are always quick to extol the benefits of having an inclusive workforce: chiefly productivity, creativity, and brand reputation.

While acknowledging that workplace diversity is crucial in 2021, Mandy Watson, Managing Director at Ambitions Personnel, said that customer bases are now acutely aware of businesses using social change merely as a commercial opportunity.

"Many businesses are waking up to the importance of having a diverse workforce and the undoubted benefits this brings,” she said.

"Recruiting a wide range of candidates from different backgrounds and ethnicities can improve productivity, increase creativity and innovation. As well as this, it can aid diversification to new products or services, enhance employee engagement and have a positive impact on overall reputation.

"As a word of caution though, consumers are becoming all too aware of businesses jumping on the back of social change purely as an opportunity to sell more products. This can backfire with negative consequences.”

Watson added: "Businesses looking to make changes need to do so for the right reasons and any changes in policy or direction must come from the top and influence every business decision.

"Those businesses looking to increase diversity need to start with their recruitment strategy. They need to start by reviewing how and where vacancies are advertised and removing unconscious bias from their processes. It’s not an overnight fix by any means."

Do employers have further to go to make workplaces equal?

Abdul Wahab, Inclusion and Diversity Adviser at the CIPD, said that “all the evidence” shows that there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving employment and progression at work for ethnic minority groups.

He previously told HR Grapevine: “For example, the pre-pandemic employment rate for most ethnic minorities was lower than the white British average. There is also a significant pay gap between white British people and most ethnic minority groups.”

He also pointed towards 2021 analysis from the recruitment firm Green Park, which found that there are no Black executives in any of the top three roles in the FTSE100 for the first time in six years, suggesting that more work needs to be done.

Separately, Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer at Advanced, alluded that there is still work to be done, adding that “it’s ongoing work, too”.

The HR expert told HR Grapevine that leaders should be honest about unconscious bias that may exist in the workplace and call it out if it occurs.

“Some businesses have old practices and processes that they have followed for many years without really questioning them through a diversity lens,” she added.

How can HR help?

Whilst this data might need improving on, Wahab went on to explain that people function experts play a crucial role in carving out a fair and inclusive work culture “where being different is an asset, not a problem”.

He added: “They should also be taking the lead on creating a diverse talent pool and developing a workforce that reflects their organisation’s customer base and wider society.

“HR teams must be regularly carrying out a root and branch review of their people management approach through multiple inclusion lenses, including race.

“This will help them to address blockers and biases in hiring, performance management, career progression, and reward.”

Wahab also said that the CIPD believes that each HR team should publish their firm’s ethnicity pay data annually, even though it is not compulsory.

The CIPD expert added: “Not only does this help to improve accountability, it can inform what changes to policies and processes would be most effective.”


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