Written by Celestine Fraser, published on 17 April 2023
Creating Systemic Change at Gucci
Over the past few years, brands have been making progress towards greater inclusion of communities that have often been overlooked or completely ignored in the conversation about fashion. One brand building a holistic strategy towards accessibility and Disability inclusion is Gucci – from its hiring processes to its customer experience.
The brand has established a Global Equity Board, which is “responsible for defining the overall vision and priorities to inform our company culture and employee experience.” Led by President and CEO Marco Bizzarri, Tilting the Lens Founder and CEO Sinéad Burke is one of a diverse group of board members “tasked with setting ambitious targets, measuring Gucci’s progress towards established DE&I goals and aligning with Kering’s broader diversity, equity & inclusion mission.”
As a strategic partner, Tilting the Lens has also been working closely with the internal teams of the Italian luxury brand to advance and advise on their Disability inclusion strategy. Below, we summarize some of the outcomes of this partnership.
Committing to Disability inclusion
In July 2022, Gucci released its Gucci Equilibrium impact report, designed to summarize the commitments, progress and actions taken by the house to generate positive change for people and the planet while looking toward the future. The report also outlined the house’s commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion within the workplace, with a focus on management roles, gender equality and female leadership. Key among these objectives was a commitment to “creating greater opportunities for people with disabilities in our workplace.”
Identifying a roadmap for change
Also in 2022, Gucci became the first and only luxury fashion brand to become a certified participant of the annual Disability Equality Index, a benchmarking tool that “helps companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions that they can take to achieve Disability inclusion and equality.” Gucci scored 80 out of a possible 100 points in the survey, ranking the company alongside Sephora and Estée Lauder as one of the ‘Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion.’ Gucci’s participation in the audit enabled the brand to assess where it was at and to figure out its roadmap towards even greater Disability inclusion accordingly.
Hiring and retaining Disabled talent
Gucci has reviewed its hiring and interviewing processes, to ensure that these are inclusive of Disabled people. The company has been working with external organizations to engage with Disabled talent and to increase representation across its teams by employing more Disabled talent in various roles within the company. However, as Sinéad explained to Vogue Business, “It’s not enough to hire more Disabled people; you have to set them up for long-term thriving and retention.”
Gucci is therefore building accessible environments and an inclusive working culture which will support its Disabled employees and benefit everyone. For instance, Gucci North America has recently launched Guccibility, an Employee Resource Group focused on disability. “Anyone can become disabled at any time in their lives,” Sinéad says. “So, this work strengthens the opportunities and retention for all employees.”
Recognizing disability as an identity
The freedom for self-expression is a key tenet of Gucci. In 2021, Gucci adopted “gender expansive language,” which means that all employees of Gucci North America have the option to identify as non-binary, and to self-identify their sexual orientation if they so choose. Since then, Gucci has also improved its self-identification options for disability, so that employees “now have the ability to self-identify as having visible or invisible disabilities.”
The opportunity for Disabled employees to disclose as much or as little of their disabilities as they want is an important step in creating a company culture which fosters psychological safety. In turn, Gucci can spotlight the voices of their Disabled employees who are proud to represent the brand and to speak of their lived experiences and identity.
Creating an accessible customer experience
Gucci has been running a series of pilot programs alongside Corporate Counseling Associates, which aims to improve the accessibility of its stores. The company has launched a workshop called ‘Accessibility is true inclusion,’ which is training its staff in Disability awareness and accessibility, and has been made mandatory for all its employees in North America. The pilot has now been extended to Europe and will next be expanded to Latin America, South Asia and the Pacific.
Meanwhile, Gucci has been improving the accessibility of its social media and communications. Adding alt text to every Instagram and Twitter post makes Gucci’s content accessible to assistive technology such as screen readers.
Gucci’s recent strides towards Disability inclusion have shown that systemic change has to happen on every level: from a brand’s values to its hiring processes; from the inclusivity of its workplaces to the accessibility of its stores.
To learn more about our work at Tilting the Lens or to enquire about how we can help your organization increase accessibility across your teams, contact us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org