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CEO Sarah LaFleur’s Commitments to Racial Equality for the M.M.LaFleur Community

We know things need to change. Here’s what we’re going to do about it.

By Sarah LaFleur

July 9, 2020

Dear M.M. Community,

On May 31st, I sent a letter to all of you sharing our stance on the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. We were heartbroken and outraged then, and we still are. We are having a reckoning about the true depth of racism and oppression in this country, and how deeply those wounds have impacted the Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) in our lives. 

In the last few weeks, we’ve come together as a company to discuss how racism has affected us, both personally and at work. Through this process, we’ve heard stories about the painful experiences our BIPOC employees have had with customers and colleagues alike. We’ve also had former employees step forward and share—both directly and on social media—what they’ve encountered working at M.M. 

I’ve always said that, on my tombstone, I want to be able to write the words, “best manager.” I, of course, care about running a successful business, but what has always mattered to me more than anything is that M.M. is a good company for everyone to work fora place where people are allowed to be who they are without fear. That’s why hearing about these instances has been especially difficult. I take full responsibility for the issues that have been brought forward. To our M.M. team members and customers, I am truly sorry. I’m committed to making M.M. the company that actively fights for and protects our employees, especially our BIPOC employees.

The core of this promise is a commitment to anti-racism across every aspect of our business. Racism of any form will not be tolerated at our stores, at our events, in our logistics center, or in our offices. Furthermore, we will proactively call out racism when we see it, even if that means losing customers.

Taking into account the stories and feedback we’ve heard, our team has spent the last several weeks on a comprehensive plan to make sure M.M.LaFleur is a safe and empowering workplace for all our employees. I want to share the highlights of that plan with you now, so that—with your help—we can hold ourselves accountable at every level. 

We will add a Black woman to our board. True systemic change starts from the very top. To that end, we will be launching a search process to fill a seat on the M.M.LaFleur board with a Black woman with significant sector experience.  

We will add more BIPOC leaders to the company. Currently (as of July 9, 2020), of our overall employee population (140 people), our employees identify as the following:

          • 14% Asian (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 7% Black or African American (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 16% Hispanic or Latinx
          • 1% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (not Hispanic or Latinx) 
          • 9% Two or more races (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 43% White (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 9% did not report
          • 1% prefer not to disclose

In our leadership group (20 people, level Director and above), our employees identify as the following:

          • 15% Asian (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 5% Black or African American (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 5% Hispanic or Latinx
          • 0% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (not Hispanic or Latinx) 
          • 20% Two or more races (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 50% White (not Hispanic or Latinx)
          • 5% did not report

We need to do better. We recently hired a new Senior Director of People whose priority over the coming months will be executing against our DEI strategy. This hire is only the beginning, and we still have a lot of work to do. We’re committed to expanding how we search for diverse candidates, going beyond LinkedIn and Indeed and broadening our networks, including the organizations we work with and the schools we recruit from. We’ve updated our interview screening process to ensure that we do not let implicit bias be the basis for hiring or not hiring a candidate. Because of the current economic environment, we are not currently hiring; however, once we ramp up again, we’ll develop and share metrics around our hiring goals. 

We will establish a clear path to escalate cases of racism or harassment. One of the biggest lessons coming out of the past month was that there hasn’t been a consistent protocol for reporting racist incidents. Some employees shared that they felt uncomfortable speaking up. There were also complaints that were shared that weren’t escalated properly. It’s on us to create an environment where every employee feels safe and empowered to call out racism when they see it. As a first step, we are in the process of rolling out an anonymous Employee Hotline as soon as next week. Our escalation process will be articulated in every part of our training, and our leadership team will be trained on how to best handle incidents of racism. 

We will display our anti-discrimination policy in each of our stores and office locations. You may ask, what’s in a sign? But we want every person who walks into any of our facilities to know that we are an organization actively committed to fighting racism. We expect our visitors and customers to respect our employees and vice versa, and any violation of this policy will not be tolerated.

We will continue to promote equal pay and opportunity. We recognize that racism isn’t just hate speech and violence, but an intricate system that affects job opportunities and pay discrepancy. We’ve employed a pay transparency model since 2018, but we need to do more. To make sure every opportunity for growth at M.M. is open to every employee at M.M., we will continue to improve on this model and refine our promotion processes in every facet of the company to ensure they are as clear as possible to our employees. 

We will expand our mandatory employee training curriculum to include more frequent and in-depth training on recognizing and combating implicit and explicit biases. Throughout the year, we’ll hold small group trainings and enrichment sessions on the psychological impact of racism, addressing microaggressions, and combating cultural appropriation and misappropriation. We will ensure that everyone at the company is aware of and signs our anti-discrimination policy.

We will hold ourselves accountable. We will establish a DEI committee, which will include one of our independent board advisors, several senior company leaders, and employees at various levels, to ensure we are making continuous progress. We’re committed to publicly sharing our progress with our customers and community on a regular basis.

This is only the beginning, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. This company, no matter how financially successful it may become, will ultimately be a failure if it is not a place of equity. I want every employee, and especially our BIPOC employees, to feel that M.M. is and was the best company they ever worked for, and that they felt safe and protected at all times. This is my commitment to all of you.

Yours Truly,
Sarah LaFleur
Founder & CEO

Written By

Sarah LaFleur

Sarah LaFleur is the founder and CEO of professional womenswear brand MM.LaFleur . Her mission: to take the work out of dressing for work.

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