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Under Armour looks to ‘Career Combine,’ other diversity efforts, to shape future workforce

Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Fashion Daily News

BALTIMORE -- Under Armour looked no farther than its own Baltimore backyard to launch what it considers a key piece of a sweeping global initiative designed to break down barriers limiting access to sports.

In an effort to attract a more diverse workforce, Under Armour debuted a career preparation program at Morgan State University, just 8 miles from its Locust Point headquarters. The athletic apparel brand said it expects to expand such events to other historically Black colleges and universities.

Under Armour, which models its culture on that of athletes, calling workers “teammates,” for instance, ran the intensive, three-day program like an athletic combine. During the “Career Combine,” 50 Morgan students were given a crash course in designing, making, promoting and selling apparel and footwear, before forming teams to test their skills in a case competition.

By forming partnerships with HBCUs across the U.S., Under Armour said it’s aiming to break down barriers to students of color in classrooms, on the field and in jobs.

“Our goal is to empower these students and create a pipeline of top talent,” said Ashley Brown, Under Armour’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “We set out with this expanded partnership with Morgan State University to develop a blueprint for how we can elevate our work with HBCUs and [Hispanic-serving institutions] in the future.”

Much of the corporate world has scrutinized internal culture and policies in the past two years, ever since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a reckoning on racial injustice. Employers have reexamined everything from diversity on their boards to hiring practices.

 

Under Armour looked at its management, vowing in June 2020 to improve racial diversity. CEO Patrik Frisk told employees at the time the leadership team had heard Black employees express “anger to frustration to exhaustion” over the history of social injustice in the U.S.

Under Armour has had its own struggles. A former executive sued the company in 2019 alleging racial discrimination. The parties reached a settlement in that case.

“We recognized the immense responsibility we have to do so much more,” Frisk said.

In February, Under Armour announced its partnership with Morgan State. In addition to the Career Combine, plans include giving the university’s coaches access to a virtual space called UA Coaches Armoury, which offers tools for training and developing student-athletes. And at least two Morgan students will be offered internships and mentoring through Under Armour’s UA Rookie program.

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