Tuesday’s announced departure of the head of global human resources for athletic wear maker Adidas AG, amid media reports of criticism by Black employees about a lack of diversity, marks the latest corporate attempt to address tough issues of race brought to the forefront by global protesters seeking racial justice.
The German-based company said Karen Parkin, who had been at Adidas for 23 year, informed the company she will step down from the executive board and leave the company immediately, a move met with “mutual agreement,” the company said.
The Wall Street Journal reported some Adidas employees had asked the supervisory board in June to look into whether Parkin was taking the right approach to address racial issues in the workplace, sparked in part by her earlier statement that racism was “noise” only discussed in America.
In a separate article, the Journal interviewed one worker who said Adidas hires Black people to help it connect with the Black consumer, a key sportswear demographic, but it was difficult for Black people to advance at the company.
Parkin joined Adidas in 1997 as sales director for Adidas UK, the company said, and has since gained increasing responsibility culminating in leading global human resources for more than five years and serving on the executive board since 2017.
A news release announcing Parkin’s departure did not address issues of race directly but included her statement that in the goal of creating a “more diverse, inclusive and equitable company…there is much more work to be done.”
Parkin will be replaced on an interim basis by Adidas Chief Executive Kasper Rorsted who will stay in the role until a successor is appointed.
“It has become clear to me that to unify the organization it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change. Now is the right time for a new HR leader to take over the function, to seize the opportunity before us and drive forward the pace of change to create a more diverse and inclusive Adidas that we can all be proud of.”
The televised death of George Floyd on Memorial Day sparked worldwide protests and also launched internal soul searching in corporate America as employees, particularly workers of color, expressed concerns about not-so-welcoming environments and a lack of diversity. Tough discussions about race in the workplace have led to some top-level departures. Last week, Greg Glassman stepped down as CEO of CrossFit after audio leaked in which he can be heard making dismissive comments about Floyd’s death and also repeating conspiracy theories about the coronavirus..