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When Gina Drosos took over as CEO in 2017 of Signet Jewelers (SIG) as the first woman to lead the world's largest diamond jewelry retailer, she was tasked with transforming the company — from its slumping sales to diversifying its culture.
Drosos says embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been a critical part of the company’s multi-year turnaround.
“I believe that companies that are more diverse make better decisions. They have an ability to see 360 degrees, which allows them to see opportunities and act quickly on those. It brings a level of agility and innovation. It also allows companies to see risks or concerns faster and to address those head-on with transparency and authenticity,” Drosos said.
Signet, the parent company of well-known brands such as Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared: The Galleria of Jewelry, said increasing diversity has been an “unlock for talent.” Eighty-seven percent of the company’s employee base is either gender and ethnically diverse. At the executive leadership level, that figure is 58%.
On Wednesday, Signet expanded its board to 12 from 10 members. It appointed two Black executives — Andrew Branch, the senior vice president of MAC Cosmetics North America, and Dontá Wilson, the chief digital and client experience officer of Truist Financial. With the new board appointments, Signet's board is now 59% female and people of color.
“What I think is really important about today's new announcement about adding diversity to our board of directors is that it better represents our company and the customers we serve,” Drosos added.
Until this week, Signet had one of the few public company boards with an equal number of men and women, with women chairing four out of its five committees.
“[But] we didn't have racial diversity represented at the board level, and I think that was a miss. I mean, we really want everyone in the Signet organization to be able to look up and see our values represented at the highest levels,” Drosos added.
It's well-known that women and other minorities are still noticeably underrepresented on corporate boards in corporate America. Since 2009, executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles has published its U.S. Board Monitor, which tracks the filling of vacant board seats. In 2019, the Board Monitor showed women comprised 44% of new or empty 467 board seats in 2019, an all-time high, while African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Asian Americans have remained flat at 23% since 2017.
Drosos said as the company embarks on the next part of its transformation, having Branch and Wilson on the board brings two entrepreneurial executives with agile mindsets and expertise in the areas of services and digital transformation.
What's more, Drosos credited the company's diverse culture and its "entrepreneurial environment" for its ability to innovate and navigate the pandemic.
Last month, Signet announced its best holiday sales in nine years, led by a 60% surge in e-commerce from the prior year. When Signet launched its Path To Brilliance plan, e-commerce accounted for only 5% of total sales. Today, e-commerce accounts for more than 20% of the company's total sales.
Shares of Signet have climbed more than 64% this year.
Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.