Third Place Winner; 2022 DEI Global Case Writing Competition.
Ashima Patel, senior vice president and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer at Shoppers Market, a global retailer, has made progress but needs to do more, especially regarding decreasing representation of women of color in the company. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shoppers Market, like other companies across corporate America, has been called upon to show that it is advancing racial equity with how it hires, promotes, and does business. While Shoppers Market had established a diversity office in 2007, the company wanted to redouble its commitment to DEI and hired Patel in October 2020 to lead the charge.
With Patel’s leadership, the company made significant strides in DEI and released its first-ever mid-year DEI report in September 2021. However, Shoppers Market was facing a challenge that most of corporate America was grappling with: a lack of improvement in representation for women of color. Though women of color represented about one in four U.S. employees at Shoppers Market in mid-year 2021, they made up just 4.3% of people at the officer level—people with president or vice president in their titles. Despite an increase in hiring, the representation of women of color at Shoppers Market had declined by 8% overall, and by 33% in leadership positions, over the last five years.
This declining representation was a growing cause for concern for the CEO, James Spyers. He had committed to showing sustained improvement in representation for women of color in leadership positions by 2025 and was due to present a solid plan to the board of directors by the end of 2021. Patel and her team knew they needed to quickly understand and address the underlying causes.
This case provides insights into a key aspect of DEI: intersectionality and its implications for the corporate world. Students will explore the challenges facing women of color in the workplace and develop a multi-disciplinary, integrated strategy to address the reasons underlying their small representation in leadership.