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Nike is the Most Valuable Clothing Brand on Earth, and Most of its US Employees Aren’t White

Nike has been on an incredible streak in the past few years. The sneaker giant continues to smash its own sales records as it turns out great performance products and rides a wave of people adopting gym wear as everyday fashion. The Nike image, as synonymous with cool as ever, is benefiting.

In Forbes’ new list of the world’s most valuable brands, meaning thosethat “generate significant earnings in industries where branding plays a major role,” Nike sits atop the apparel category with a brand value of $27.5 billion. As Esquire points out, that makes Nike the most valuable clothing brand overall, taking the top spot from Louis Vuitton, which saw its brand value decline slightly to $27.3 billion. A year ago, Nike took the fashion crown in a similar tally by advertising firm Millward Brown.

The company recently reached another significant milestone worth mentioning. As Fortune reports, the company said in an in-depth report(pdf) on its sustainability practices and workforce that, for the first time, most of its employees identify as other than white. White employees were still the largest group at 48% of US workers, but other groups together totaled more than 51%.

Nike also noted that 60% of the growth in employees in leadership or management roles was non-white.

One area that the company lagged was putting women in managerial roles. Globally, 59% of managers are men and 41% are women. The company updated its paid leave policy this week, increasing the minimum paid leave available to birth mothers to 14 weeks from six. Fathers, adoptive parents, and employees with sick family members can take up to eight weeks of paid leave. Previously they were allowed none.

Diversity in both ethnicity and gender is not, of course, solely responsible for Nike’s success, but it may have an influence. Anextensive report (pdf) released last year by research firm McKinsey looked at the links between diversity and success and found that companies with diverse workforces did tend to perform better financially.

The ethnically diverse US is also the world’s largest sportswear market. It’s not hard to imagine that having a workforce that reflects the population can help a company develop products that sell. Diversity behind the scenes is what led Christian Louboutin to begin making “nude” shoes in a wider variety of skin tones.

In any case, Nike’s example sends a message to companies that resist increasing the diversity of their workforce: Just do it.

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