It’s been just over three months since Adidas’s former head of human resources, Karen Parkin, stepped down from her position amid a public, employee-led outcry alleging racism at the sneaker giant.
Today Adidas announced her replacement. Beginning in 2021, Amanda Rajkumar, previously HR chief for the Americas region at bank BNP Paribas, will join Adidas’s six-person executive board and oversee global human resources at the company, which has nearly 60,000 employees worldwide. In a statement, CEO Kasper Rorsted said Adidas’s aim is a “truly diverse, inclusive, people driven and equitable company.”
For more than a year, Black employees in the US offices of the German company have accused Adidas of allowing a racist corporate culture. They said that while Adidas mines Black American culture for ideas and uses Black celebrities to represent its brand, Black employees at the company are often overlooked and remain largely absent from leadership positions. Some employees had spoken to press anonymously about the issue, but in June, after Adidas voiced support for protesters condemning the ongoing police killings of Black Americans, several went public with their complaints.
One employee involved with the company’s senior leadership, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, told that Parkin and Rorsted were the ones with the greatest power to address the issue but failed to take it seriously. Parkin was a particular subject of criticism for employees. In one notable incident, she told staff at Reebok, a subsidiary of Adidas, in a public meeting that she only heard the “noise” about treatment of non-white and LGBTQ employees coming from the North American offices and suggested the company didn’t need to address them.
In June, after employees spoke out about the problems and staged protests at Adidas’s North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, the company promised efforts to address the issue and made a number of commitments. Parkin stepped down soon after. In August, Adidas renewed Rorsted’s contract for another five years.
Rajkumar, a 48-year-old British national born to West Indian parents, will add some diversity to Adidas’s otherwise all-white and all-male executive board. She has more than 20 years of experience in human resources at global organizations, and has talked about the need to challenge bias in the workplace. In a statement, she said “with the company’s core values aligned to my own, I am thrilled about the opportunity to help shape and define the future of adidas.”