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Adidas Expands the Role of Its Global DEI Head Amid Broader Shakeup in HR Leadership

Adidas has expanded the role of Vanessa Abrahams-John, its global head of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The athletic giant confirmed in an email to FN that Abrahams-John will now oversee its North America human resources team in addition to her role as global head of DEI. As the SVP of North America human resources and global DEI, Adidas stated Abrahams-John will be tasked with driving its people priorities across North America, as well as leading the execution of its global DEI strategy.

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The news comes weeks after Michelle Robertson began her role as Adidas’ human resources chief and executive board member, replacing Amanda Rajkumar, who departed the role in July. Rajkumar has been appointed to the role on Adidas’ board in 2021 after employee complaints over racism at the firm led Karen Parkin, former global head of HR, to exit. Adidas’ diversity and inclusion shortfalls had been thrust into the spotlight, and a racial reckoning unfolded at the company — and across corporate America — following the murder of George Floyd.

Adidas confirmed Abrahams-John assumed the new responsibilities as of Jan. 1 and will relocate to Portland, Ore., from its Germany headquarters this year.

Abrahams-John shared the news on LinkedIn.

“This broadened role deepens my commitment to the iconic Adidas brand to continue doing the work I love — leading people and driving culture transformation with empathy, optimism and integrity,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “I am thrilled to join the [North American] HR team in our Portland HQ to continue fostering an environment of inclusion and genuine care for our people.”

Abrahams-John — who joined Adidas in May 2022 — was one of 13 women highlighted by FN in the June 2023 “Women Who Rock” print magazine for her ability to ensure her team stays motivated in uncertain times.

“I focus on unlocking engagement and retention by transparent and honest communications to set expectations, rewarding and celebrating wins and individual accomplishments, and practicing deep empathy to address individual concerns,” Abrahams-John told FN in June 2023. “Employees will enhance their resilience and loyalty during difficult times, if they feel there is a culture of trust, honesty and psychological safety.”

The expanded role for Abrahams-John comes at a time when the state of DEI is at a crossroads, which includes chief diversity officers leaving their roles after short stints with their companies. Most notably, Jarvis Sam left Nike in November 2022, just six months into the job. Although Sam told FN in February 2023 that the short tenures could be a byproduct of a highly change-oriented job, a 2022 survey from consulting firm Korn Ferry revealed 35 percent of respondents said their leaders don’t adequately support the role of the CDO and diversity efforts overall. (Nike announced Sam’s replacement, James Loduca in March 2023.)

What’s more, Adidas has experienced movement among its leadership in recent months. In addition to the shakeup in its global HR function, the company announced on Jan. 8 that it had appointed John Miller, who worked for Adidas in sales leadership roles in the past, as president of Adidas North America. Miller replaced Rupert Campbell, who had two separate tenures with Adidas. His most recent stint began in 2018, assuming the managing director Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan before being named president of North America in January 2022. WWD learned in October 2023 that Campbell was leaving Adidas “to pursue other opportunities.”

About the Author

Peter Verry is the Senior News and Features Editor for Athletic and Outdoor at Footwear News. He oversees coverage of the two fast-paced and ultracompetitive markets, which includes conducting in-depth interviews with industry leaders and writing stories on sneakers and outdoor shoes. He is a lifelong sneaker addict (and shares his newest purchases via @peterverry on Instagram) and spends most of his free time on a trail. He holds an M.A. in journalism from Hofstra University and can be reached at peter.verry@footwearnews.com

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