The global human resources chief at Adidas is retiring effective immediately weeks after U.S. workers at the German sportswear company reportedly demanded her exit over allegedly racially insensitive comments. Karen Parkin told the company's governing board on Tuesday that she is leaving so someone else can "create a more diverse and inclusive Adidas that we can all be proud of."
"It has become clear to me that, to unify the organization, it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change," Parkin said in a statement.
A group of 13 Adidas employees in the U.S. had called for Parkin's resignation this month, according to Footwear News. The workers reportedly pointed to an incident during a company meeting in Boston last year at which Parkin dismissed concerns over Adidas's treatment of employees of color as "noise" and said there was no need for remedial action, employees who attended the meeting told the trade publication.
Black employees who worked for Adidas's North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, reportedly staged a sit out earlier this month, accusing the company of marginalizing workers of color and pushing for change. Since then, Adidas has pledged to invest $120 million in Black communities over the next four years and fill 30% of its current U.S. job openings with someone Black or Hispanic.
Parkin joined Adidas in 1997 as a sales director in the United Kingdom, while also working in customer service, business development and supply chain roles during her 23 years at the company. She became head of global human resources in 2015.
Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, who was named as interim head of human resources, said in a statement that Parkin was instrumental in making sure Adidas' 60,000 employees around the world have been safe throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
"She has played a significant part in our focus over the past few weeks as to how we move forward as a company to fight racial inequality and build a more diverse Adidas," Rorsted said.
Adidas does not publicly disclose the racial breakdown of its workforce. But of the roughly 1,700 employees at its U.S. headquarters, less than 5% identified as Black, according to internal employment figures obtained in 2019 by the New York Times.