Diversity without inclusion is short-lived. It is not sustainable and improves a company’s image, but not the culture and careers of associates. For this reason, AEO Inc. deliberately chose to frame our journey as Inclusion and Diversity. We are a wonderful company. We care about the safety and well-being of our people and communities. That is REAL.
AEO Inc. and the AE and Aerie brands are a reflection of all of our stakeholders—different ages, abilities, genders, cultures, sexual orientations and identities, and races.
I invite Black and POC entry-level and experienced candidates who are passionate and talented to give AEO a look when deciding where to start and grow their careers. We are a global company with incredible people of every background.
In 2018, a group of our associates passionate about inclusion and diversity founded the I&D Alliance, a group that consists of associates at all levels. It has grown to be an indispensable and unique part of AEO,
influencing and advising the workstreams that support hiring, culture and development. It is a group that has worked with incredible passion—with an unwavering purpose to make a great company, even better.
Our Inclusion & Diversity mission is built upon three pillars—Hiring, Culture, and Development. I am proud of what the I&D Alliance has achieved. We have taken action, but we still have work to do. It was never going to be easy. Nothing worth building ever is.
Our priority has been improving I&D efforts not just in our corporate offices, but in our distribution centers, stores, and international family, which are all critical to this journey.
Recently, we have taken the following action:
- Formally established an Inclusion & Diversity department, which I will lead. We are actively recruiting a new member to join my team. You can apply here.
- Developed our version of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which requires consideration of Black and POC individuals for all AEO corporate positions.
- Begun a series of mandatory trainings for our senior leadership, beginning with how to avoid microaggressions and their damaging impact on marginalized populations. These ongoing mandatory trainings will then be offered to all associates.
- Begun to develop allyship training with external experts that will be implemented, starting with leadership, in the next month.
- Announced a $500,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund to help fight for criminal justice reform, voting rights access, education equity and an end to systemic bias and racism.
- Matching up to $100,000 in donations made by our associates to organizations fighting against racism and for social justice.
- Celebrated Juneteenth with an entire week dedicated to educating our associates on its history and importance, culminating in a call to action to make Juneteenth a National Holiday and a day of education and reflection for our associates.
We are also working on some very exciting plans in partnership with the AE and Aerie brands that will create REAL change for both our associates and our customers. We will be sharing more very soon.
In the meantime, I also invite you to review our 2020 Inclusion & Diversity goals and accomplishments below, which we presented to associates in early February. The events of the last month have certainly brought increased focused and urgency, allowing us to mobilize our teams and take quick action.
AEO Inc. remains committed to:
- Increasing representation of diverse associates in hiring and other candidate pipelines by building upon our partnerships with HBCUs and diverse organizations.
- Continuing to develop an inclusive workplace through expansion, and support, of Associate Networks and Connections (AEO’s version of employee-led resource groups).
- Promoting education and awareness for I&D through organized and publicized displays of associate and community partnerships.
- Increasing the number and proportion of diverse associates achieving promotions and occupying leadership positions.
- Equipping our leaders and teams with the tools to create and maintain an inclusive workplace.
- Our associates have created and cultivated Associate Networks and Connections with groups such as the REAL Black Alliance, Anti-Racism, Veterans, LGBTQ+, Women in Tech, REAL Parents, Sustainability and more.
- We’ve put a significant emphasis on the recognition and education of cultural holidays and heritage celebrations like Black History Month, Hispanic History Month, Indigenous People’s Day, Juneteenth and we have turned MLK Day into a day of service.
- Building on our established partnerships with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, Open to All, Big Brothers Big Sisters, NAACP LDF and The Pittsburgh Promise.
- A commitment to diverse interview panels has been implemented by our recruiting team. As we become more diverse, our interview panels will become more diverse.
- Strengthening our relationships and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This summer we will be holding a virtual program for students at select HBCUs and black student organizations to provide a summer experience of retail business education.
- AEO has recognized how the COVID-19 crisis is having a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities. HBCU financial resources were particularly impacted, so AEO collaborated with the schools and offered our assistance with things such as resume assistance and interview training.
- Conducting regular unconscious bias training led by our Chief Compliance Officer. Additionally in 2019, we hosted a full day of diversity, inclusion and equity training by the Anti-Defamation League.
- Continuing partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and the Executive Leadership Academy, an executive education program specifically dedicated to preparing emerging black leaders for executive advancement.
- Ongoing education and training through our AEO Academy on combating systemic racism and racial trauma, unconscious bias, and ways in which to build a more inclusive culture.
- Deliberate focus on identifying talented Black and POC associates from across the organization and focusing on their retention, development and promotion.
This is just a start. We certainly have a lot more work to do. We will be thoughtful. We will be deliberate. And, we will ensure that our plans and initiatives are sustainable for the long haul.
We celebrate the diversity of one, through the inclusion of many.
Vice President – Employment Law and Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer