Renée Tirado, global head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Gucci, has resigned her full-time position but will continue to work with the Italian luxury brand as a consultant beginning this month.
She plans to set up her own consulting firm in New York, called VegaRovles Consulting.
Tirado was originally hired by Gucci in July 2019 in a new position to implement a strategy aimed at creating a more inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace inside the company. She reported to Gucci president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri and was based in New York.
A licensed attorney who graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, Tirado was previously chief diversity and inclusion officer at Major League Baseball and earlier held diversity and inclusion leadership roles at multinational finance and insurance corporation AIG and the United States Tennis Association.
“In the last year, Renée has done an exceptional job bringing new perspectives and guidance to help Gucci make significant progress in our understanding and foundational infrastructure of DE&I,” said a Gucci’s spokesperson. “Through her leadership we have established a global equity board, as well as a broader and more integrated approach to DE&I that is now embedded in our human capital strategy touching all levels of our business. We will continue to count upon Renée’s important contribution in her consultancy role as we go forward.”
Following her transition to a consultancy role, Gucci said that her full-time responsibilities will be divided between chief people officer Luca Bozzo and pioneering model and activist Bethann Hardison. Already a member of the Gucci Changemaker council since its establishment in 2019, Hardison has recently joined the Gucci global equity board and Gucci’s global corporate executive committee as executive adviser for global equity and culture engagement.
In talking about her newly expanded role at Gucci, Hardison told WWD, “I think that everyone in the company always likes my point of view, they always appreciate how I think about certain things. I bring another way of looking at something. I’m not there to accuse, I’m there to educate. And it’s very important that everyone be responsible for this moment right now.”
Among the various initiatives that Tirado implemented during her tenure, Gucci launched a multicultural design fellowship program in Rome, with the idea that creativity is at the center of everything that Gucci does, and to infuse new design talent into the company. “We really do believe that creativity comes out of diversity and inclusion,” said Tirado. Gucci brought in more than 60 design students from 11 different countries. Eleven of them were chosen for a one-year fellowship under creative director Alessandro Michele’s tutelage.
Before Tirado’s appointment, Gucci faced accusations of racism and cultural appropriations, caused by two different items included in the brand’s fall 2018 runway show, a balaclava-style sweater which was said to evoke blackface and a headscarf, called “Indy Full Turban,” that many on social media claimed insensitive toward the Sikh culture.
In an interview Friday, Tirado told WWD why she decided to leave Gucci after a year in the role. “It was a convergence of things. It was a personal decision, it’s something I was thinking about for many, many years. You just start to reevaluate things, obviously COVID-19, the climate that we’re in. There’s never going to be a good time. This was the time for me. I know I set up a foundation for Gucci to build on, and I leave with a clear head. They can go from there, and I’m still supporting and working with them. I will still be available for them.”
She said her new consulting firm will provide thought leadership and guidance and help companies and organizations with inclusivity and help eliminate systemic racism. The consultancy will focus more heavily on strategy than necessarily training, but that will be available, too. She said she hopes to work with companies and help them engage their employees, not only the high performers, but everyone, so they can be ambassadors for their brand.
A lot of companies have great intentions and set all these targets “but as we know, the needle is not moving,” said Tirado. “We’ve been having this conversation for 30 years, 40 years. I will hopefully focus on how these companies get to 2.0,” she said.
Tirado said she’s open to all kinds of industries. With a background in a variety of sectors, she said she has the flexibility. “That skillset gives me a lot of agility to understand different types of cultures and priorities,” she said.
Tirado explained that there are companies that have chief diversity officers, and others that don’t. “It’s a combination of both. If you’re paying attention at all to the market, it is a buyers’ market for diversity officers. Companies that don’t have one have really ramped up their efforts to recruit talent, I’ve seen this before, it’s hard to get there, and then there’s no budget or buy-in or support. You’re trying to create essentially a whole culture movement within your organization,” she said.
It takes a lot of resources to set up these programs, she said. “So even those companies that have chief diversity officers, I really hope to provide support and a conduit to help influence internally. And for organizations that don’t have anybody, I hope to set up a strategic program to implement diversity and inclusion within their business and functions organically, so it starts to change the culture, and not just check the box,” she said.
It’s not inexpensive to impact the performance of your organization, she said. “I don’t think it should be looked at as expensive. Companies are hiring consultants to do all sorts of things….I think it’s more about teaching them how to prioritize it. If it’s a priority, and they don’t have the bandwidth to hire someone full-time, hopefully I fill that gap,” said Tirado.
Asked if a company needs to have metrics in place to measure how they’re doing in these areas, she said, “Absolutely, if you’re putting a strategy together, what gets measured gets done. That’s the heartbeat of what you’re trying to propose. It’s not always attributable to a hard number. It’s attributable to behavior, and how is your brand being perceived externally.”
Representation is still the foundation of a lot of this. “Where are we hiring from, who are we developing, who are we retaining and who are we promoting? That is a big part around the culture change….if you’re a company that doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide that diversity and thought and experience, you can still be given tools to adjust your own thinking so you can be a best-in-class employer and leader, and inclusive leadership is best in class.
“If you want your global consumer base to see you and invest their dollars in you, you have to walk the talk,” she said.
Her new business is not about the money. “I do think we have a unique opportunity in history right now. I do think we have a captive audience of a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds who have acknowledged there are some failures, and there are some challenges. I’ve never seen this level of awareness and this level of resistance [protests] in a long time, but I’m really cautiously optimistic. I’m seeing these conversations happening with audiences that don’t necessarily include just people of color, but everybody. If they want to do it, I’ll ride this journey with you. I’ll guide you through. I don’t want to do it for you. I’ll help you do it yourself.”