[Issue 058] How CEOs can fight inequality


This week the co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times explaining her decision to provide hourly and salaried employees of the fashion startup equal benefits.

By creating two different categories of benefits based on whether an employee was salaried or hourly, she explains, "I had inadvertently created classes of employees — and by doing so, had done my part to contribute to America’s inequality problem.”

While it feels good to read, it's also disheartening simply because it's one of those radical corporate decisions that, sadly, should be a no brainer.

What I love most about the article is her transparency—her ability to not only admit the flawed rationale she used to make her initial decisions (e.g. other companies do it like this) but also take a strong stance against that original POV. 


Parental leave is a hot button issue in the US right now, and rightfully so. We are the only wealthy nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave... 

Source:  Washington Post

And, of course that does not even touch on the issue of other necessary parental leave options.

In a world with dramatically rising inequality, benefits like paid time off are particularly critical for hourly employees. According to Paid Leave for the USonly 6% of low-income workers in the US have access to paid family leave. Even more, a quarter of new moms end up back at work 10 days after childbirth. 

In this HBR article, researchers Ellen Ernst Kossek and Brenda A. Lautsch break it down for us:

What exactly do we know about how kinds of work-life flexibility benefit employees in different jobs the most? First, not every employee faces the same work-life challenges, has access to the same types of flexibility, or experiences outcomes from them in the same way. For example, retail, food, and other workers in hourly jobs that pay at or close to the minimum wage often struggle to get sufficient predictable (and sometimes enough) work hours to care for their families.

In addition, access to other work-life flexibility practices that affect the ability to take time off and the continuity of work, like paid sick and parental leaves, is critical to these hourly workers. It is also largely unavailable to them... In other words, these workers can’t take a sick day, but they’re also not getting enough hours to support themselves or their families.

Thankfully companies are coming around, even ones you might not expect: Walmart announced in January that hourly employees would be getting the same parental leave as salaried employees.

Other companies leading the way on the issue include:

  • Ikea: 4 months paid parental leave to all 14,000 hourly and salaried employees
  • Levi’s: Up to 16 weeks of paid family leave for birth mothers and 8 weeks for other new parents, both salaried and hourly
  • Nordstrom: 12 weeks for birth mothers and 6 weeks for other new parents, both corporate and in retail stores
  • Bank of AmericaWells FargoJPMorgan ChaseHilton and Apple are additional examples of companies that provide equal paid leave to all their employees, both hourly and salaried. 

[Source: this incredible PL+US report!]

Let's hope this is a trend that continues.


P.S. Don't forget to enter this month's giveaway of the book Reset: Business and Society in the New Social Landscape. All you have to do is hit reply and tell me why you think Corporate responsibility is important.


This woman created an app that has successfully diverted nearly a million pounds of food from landfills and into kitchens...

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 5.01.38 PM.png

Jasmine Crowe is a food activist who founded Goodr, a food-waste management company that redirects surplus food from businesses to nonprofits that can share it with those who are food insecure. 

She says, “Hunger is not a scarcity issue. There’s more than enough food. It’s actually a logistics issue.” Learn more about how she's solving the problem, all while using blockchain technology to save businesses money. // FAST COMPANY 


How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity. Slack released its 2017 diversity report and it continues to outperform other Silicon Valley companies. At Slack, women hold 31% of the leadership roles and 34% of technical roles. Underrepresented minorities make up 13% of leadership and technical roles and 6% of all employees, which is more than its competitors. // ATLANTIC

Patagonia v. Trump. This piece digs deep into the decades long history of Patagonia's environmental activism and the all-out war they are waging against the Trump administration. Grab a glass of wine or cup of tea before you get started. // NYTIMES

Why Fair Scheduling Laws Will Be The New Minimum Wage Battle. A quote that perfectly captures the essence of this debate: "Working Families and other labor activist groups maintain that fair scheduling laws are necessary to support the achievements of a higher minimum wage, because even $15 an hour won’t do much when the hours are still well below regular." // FAST COMPANY

In One Click, Pinterest Just Got More Inclusive. The company has added a new search tool that allows you to specify skin tone when searching certain keywords. If you're a woman of color, you know how important this is because searching for certain hairstyles on the site often only yields pages of white women. Now everyone can easily choose a skin tone range in order to find hairstyles modeled on people who look like them. 🏾 // REFINERY29

Amazon Gets Huge Subsidies to Provide Good Jobs-- But It’s a Top Employer Of SNAP Recipients In At Least 5 States. Amazon is going to be implementing and testing out a new program later this year where they accept food stamps for grocery orders, which will result in a double subsidy for the company, according to this article. About 1 in 3 Amazon employees in Arizona need food stamps to feed themselves, followed by Pennsylvania and Ohio, where it is about 1 in 10. // NEW FOOD ECONOMY

C.E.O.s Should Lead on Addressing Social Issues, Poll Finds. This article provides insights from an annual report I love, so of course we will have to dig into much more in a future issue of ABL. Some of the highlights include:

  • 64% of people say that C.E.O.s should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it
  • 84% expect C.E.O.s to inform conversations and policy debates on one or more issues
  • 56% said they have no respect for C.E.O.s who remain silent on important issues

Read more: NYTIMES

"It’s time for business leaders to step up and fulfill not only their fiduciary duty to shareholders, but also their moral duty to society to treat every worker equally."

— Jennifer Y. Hyman, Co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway

Nikita T. Mitchell