Ezinne Kwubiri is so many things, a professional with over 10 years experience in managing projects, productions and people. After retiring from the financial services industry, Ezi set her sights to the Media/Entertainment industry. From being a Production Auditor at MTV Networks to serving as the Director for Global Business Services, where she led and managed strategies for people development.

Now, this BellaStylista is the first Head of Inclusion and Diversity for the fashion retailer, H&M North America. That is really impressive, and it is such a good time to be alive, seeing Africans taking over major roles in various industries globally.

In 2017, fashion retailer, H&M was faced with strong criticism for an e-commerce image they had for its children’s wear, showing a young black boy wearing a hoodie with the slogan ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’. The retailer was accused of cultural negligence and insensitivity, not only did the image cause a major social media stir with the hashtag boycotthm, but H&M had to temporarily close down 17 of its stores in South Africa after major protests and vandalism of the stores. The multi-billion dollar retailer issued a statement saying that they were aware of the recent events inside several of its South African stores hence they had closed down the stores temporarily.

H&M also issued a statement of apology saying;

Our position is simple — we have got this wrong and we are deeply sorry. This incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused.

This was the incident that gave birth to Ezinne’s position, the company sought ways to increase diversity and representation at all levels of the business . Ezinne who is definitely beyond excited to take on her new role, shared some inspirational words on her Instagram;

Stepping into this holiday season extremely thankful for where I am today! My new role as North America Head of I&D at H&M (first of its kind at H&M) has been provocative, eye-opening, encouraging & adventurous! More on that to come…but THANK YOU for all the love & encouragement (and shopping😂, I kid I kid 👀). People see these career announcements & don’t fully grasp everything that comes with it. Especially as a #BlackWoman in a room where people aren’t used to seeing you in. Not because they don’t respect you or want you there but because their “formula” has always worked. But now (oh honey!) that formula is being disrupted, challenged & thrown out the window & companies have to aggressively change #WeArePowerfulPeople. I appreciate H&M for recognizing that & bringing I&D back into the forefront of their business. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. Real, long lasting change is never does.
▪️▪️
I want to encourage everyone to keep pushing, networking, & strategizing. In 2017, I said 2018 would be my last year at Viacom. I needed to shake things up in my life & career. And I did just that! Your goals & dreams are achievable. Stay hungry! Keep learning! ▪️▪️
Continue to ride with me as we cultivate change in this industry. #IssaGoal

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Stepping into this holiday season extremely thankful for where I am today! My new role as North America Head of I&D at H&M (first of it’s kind at H&M) has been provocative, eye-opening, encouraging & adventurous! More on that to come…but THANK YOU for all the love & encouragement (and shopping😂, I kid I kid 👀). People see these career announcements & don’t fully grasp everything that comes with it. Especially as a #BlackWoman in a room where people aren’t used to seeing you in. Not because they don’t respect you or want you there but because their “formula” has always worked. But now (oh honey!) that formula is being disrupted, challenged & thrown out the window & companies have to aggressively change #WeArePowerfulPeople. I appreciate H&M for recognizing that & bringing I&D back into the forefront of their business. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. Real, long lasting change is never does. ▪️▪️ I want to encourage everyone to keep pushing, networking, & strategizing. In 2017, I said 2018 would be my last year at Viacom. I needed to shake things up in my life & career. And I did just that! Your goals & dreams are achievable. Stay hungry! Keep learning! ▪️▪️ Continue to ride with me as we cultivate change in this industry. #IssaGoal #EziFavThings #CatalystOfChange #ASeatAtTheTableWithTheMicInMyHand #HungryAndHumble #ChangeAgent #InRealLife #Educate #Advocate #Challenge #DisruptTheNorm #RepresentationMatters #InclusionAndDiversity #HMXMe #FashionGameChangers #EzinneKwubiri

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The Business of Fashion had a chitchat with the woman of the moment, read excerpts below.

On what her new role entails

I report directly to the president of H&M North America — as well as working closely with Annie Wu, the global head of inclusivity and diversity who is based in Stockholm. I’m coming from a completely different organisation and I want to challenge the status quo. I see myself as the new blood, the new person in the office that is coming with a fresh perspective. I want to challenge the mindset across the board, from the way we do our promotions, to our hiring process, to how we interact with our employees and customers, as well as their communities— who all deserve our support and celebration.

On H&M’s approach to cultural reorientation 

We knew we did not want to build our strategy in a reactionary way — filled with the unconscious biases it is being designed to tackle. So, it was really important that we put real data and information first in coming up with our plan. Prior to my joining, the global office in Sweden did a lot of the legwork as far as looking into what our employees are saying and how our customers are feeling. In addition to that, we’ve partnered with external consultants in order to provide further demographic data and launched a series of focus groups that we’ve conducted with our customers as well as internally. This is to take the temperature of the brand, to see how people feel when they think about H&M and see this in data we can use to create positive change.

On the role community plays in her plans

Advocating within and on behalf of our communities is fundamental. We are really committed to becoming better advocates in our local communities. I want to empower the team members in our stores who know their markets and communities best, to seek out and support local causes that are meaningful and important to them — and in turn, foster that authentic community partnership.

I want to make sure that when someone thinks about H&M, that they know truly what we stand for. From the kind of company that we are to the diverse and inspirational individuals we both employ in the company and empower in the community. The company buy-in behind these projects goes all the way to the top and stretches throughout the organisation.

Lead feature image: Just Ezi.com