Estee Lauder Boosts Black Hiring, Plans Global Training Push

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A year after pledging a wide-ranging slate of diversity goals, Estee Lauder Cos. says it’s made strides on its internal anti-racism work -- and that it still has further to go.

The cosmetics giant, which has now taught a racial bias class to 94% of its U.S. corporate and field employees, will be rolling out similar trainings worldwide over the next fiscal year, according to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg News. It has also boosted diverse hiring, with 9.2% of new U.S. roles filled by Black candidates in the year through June 2021, an increase of 3 percentage points year on year. The company didn’t say in the memo how many of those new hires were in management roles.

More programs on racial and social equity will be laid out in the year ahead, given a need to “address additional critical areas,” the memo says.

The new diversity efforts were in response to activism in the company ranks last year amid a wider corporate reckoning with race and inclusion around the country.

“One year ago, we came together for some of the most pivotal discussions in our company’s history regarding race,” Chairman William Lauder and Chief Executive Officer Fabrizio Freda said in the memo to employees Tuesday morning. “The movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 sparked a deeper and needed conversation.”

Although industries from finance to health care have been grappling with their own institutionalized racism during the past year, the cosmetics industry in particular has been called out for its need to change, given it’s the sector that presides over cultural beauty norms. The major labels have long been criticized for the lack of diversity in ads and their failure to serve people of all skin colors with their often limited range of products. That’s let more inclusive startups without that historical baggage made inroads, threatening the traditional beauty giants.

Now the industry is trying to rehab its relationships with employees and shoppers of color. Ulta Beauty Inc. and Sephora, two of the world’s largest specialty beauty retailers, have each vowed to crack down on staff bias and promised to sell more Black-owned brands.

Estee Lauder’s shares were little changed at 9:56 a.m. in New York. The company, which owns brands such as Clinique and La Mer, has seen shares rise 14% this year through Monday’s close, just ahead of the S&P 500’s gain.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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