Despite the importance of Italy in luxury supply chains and the high prevalence of women in the workforce, little is known about gender inequalities faced by women working behind the prized “Made in Italy” label. Kering and its family of Italian brands—Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Kering Eyewear, and Pomellato—partnered with BSR to understand the status of women working in their Italian luxury supply chain and identify opportunities to support gender equality in the country. The research highlighted significant challenges for women workers and identified clear opportunities for the luxury sector to lead efforts towards more gender-inclusive supply chains in Italy.
Italy represents 87.8 percent of the global supply chain of the Kering Group, one of the major global players in the luxury sector. The Italian supply chain is predominantly composed of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): highly specialized yet still predominantly artisanal companies, usually family owned and employing less than 50 employees on average. Analysis from BSR suggests that the majority of these employees are women: 63 percent of the workforce of the 189 suppliers engaged for this project were women.
Kering is committed to gender equality: In 2019, Thomson Reuters ranked Kering 10th out of 7,000 global organizations on their Equality & Diversity index. Nonetheless, Kering’s 2025 vision is to go further, with a goal of reaching gender balance and ending the gender pay gap at every level of the Group. As part of these efforts, Kering partnered with BSR to explore the less visible barriers to women’s economic empowerment in Italy and to establish how luxury companies can tackle them. Italy is ranked 76th on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2020, suggesting that gender inequality remains a major issue.
We partnered with Wise Growth, an Italian advisory organization, to conduct a range of analyses and data collection activities. Together, we reviewed workplace gender equality policies and practices of 189 suppliers and the perceptions and experiences of 880 workers (620 women and 260 men) across the supply chains of Kering’s family of Italian brands: Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Kering Eyewear, and Pomellato. We collected gender-disaggregated data, interviewed supplier management, and engaged workers to hear first-hand testimony, including through dedicated focus groups with women workers.
Following this, we collated our findings and conducted a landscape analysis, identifying existing initiatives and potential partners for future programs that could help advance gender equality in the Italian luxury supply chain.
Our Outcomes and Impact
The robust supplier engagement strategy and on-the-ground research enabled us to gather the most comprehensive data to date and to produce a robust analysis of a previously overlooked subject. Findings included:
- Women do not have access to the same working conditions and economic opportunities as men: Women represent 63 percent of the workforce, but only 25 percent of management positions, remaining predominantly in traditional roles as blue collar workers within the factories.
- Women rarely hold leadership positions and have limited opportunities of professional career advancement: Breaking the glass ceiling is particularly challenging, and 59 percent of women feel discriminated against across the employment cycle.
- The impacts of familial responsibilities are seen as obstacles to gender equality: Motherhood in particular is perceived as a burden by 39 percent of women, who fear its consequences on their job upon returning to work and its overall impact on getting and sustaining a job and on professional growth. In addition to that, shared parental responsibilities are still rare: for 69 percent of women, domestic and family care responsibilities still predominantly fall on their shoulders and impact their work-life balance.
Following our analysis, we worked with Kering on a range of recommendations that could be taken up by all luxury brands sourcing from Italy and by their suppliers, using our Act/Enable/Influence framework. Recommendations for brands included collecting and monitoring gender-disaggregated data, applying a gender lens to supplier codes of conduct, integrating incentives into supplier purchasing practices, and supporting the breakdown of gender stereotypes through advertising campaigns.
Following the research and the recommendations outlined in the report, Kering and its family of four brands have committed to take action to help advance gender equality through supplier engagement and in cooperation with relevant stakeholders. Through collaboration with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana—a nonprofit association that regulates, coordinates, and promotes the development of Italian fashion—Kering also disseminated the results widely to ensure that the entire industry could benefit from the findings.
"For Kering, this project was a continuation of our commitment to nurturing the talents of women in our supply chains. We firmly believe that empowering women creates positive social impacts and is also good for our business. This project required engaging and coordinating numerous actors; with their experience in this area and strong knowledge of the local context, BSR was the right partner."
-Géraldine Vallejo, Sustainability Programme Director, Kering Group
- Gender inequality is likely to exist across supply chains, including in relatively wealthy and developed countries (where it may be masked by positive global statistics). To address this inequality, rigorous analysis is needed. This begins with collecting gender-disaggregated data, which is critical for companies to detect issues specifically affecting women or men.
- Engagement strategies and expectations must be adapted to the local context and to the reality of small- and medium-sized enterprises. It is important to understand the constraints on suppliers in terms of resources and capacity—including limitations on manpower, money, expertise, information, and time—and how those constraints may affect their efforts to adopt good practices and design response strategies that are geared towards capacity building and support providing and facilitating access to resources that are locally available.
- Wherever companies uncover gender inequality, it is vital to consider the full spectrum of interventions that are available to tackle it. Companies can act within their own operations, enable suppliers and other stakeholders to collaborate with them, and influence the stereotypes and pressures present in society. A holistic strategy on gender inequality will include all three of these elements.
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