How Macy’s Supports D&I, Drives Innovation

Q&A with Macy’s Chief Diversity Officer

The Workshop is a staple program that puts Macy’s commitment to diverse, female founders into action and RILA’s Retail Innovation Center recently had the opportunity to pull back the program’s curtain with Shawn Outler, Chief Diversity Officer on what makes this program, and her role, so special. Shawn leads Macy’s Diversity & Inclusion team and partners with various business leaders and functions to advance and embed D&I into how the company thinks, acts, and operates.
Read our full Q&A to learn about how Macy’s has been supporting diverse entrepreneurs for the last decade and why that work remains relevant today.

What are some aspects of your role as Chief Diversity Officer?

Shawn: Aside from leading the overall D&I business guidance, I co-chair the Diversity & Business Inclusion Council alongside our CEO, Jeff Gennette.  I also represent the company on various external councils and committees related to advancing diversity and inclusion, as well as actions and policies needed to change systemic racism. For example, CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion and the National Urban League Corporate Council.

How has your personal story impacted your career path?

I come from a lineage of optimistic, innovative, entrepreneurial, stylish, and strong people. My parents imparted on me and my sisters that nothing comes without hard work and dedication. My sisters and I went on to become the first generation of our family to graduate from college. Early on, I watched my father build a successful oil and heating business, as well as have a successful real estate investment career, which I believe fueled my aspiration to one day lead. My mother is the fashion-savvy one – which is an interest we both share and I’m please to say that she remains stylish to this day!

But what most attracted me to the retail industry is the that it gives you the sense that you are operating your own business, the two are very similar.

What originally inspired the “The Workshop at Macy’s” and the need to revive it this year?

The Workshop was created to focus on two main objectives:
  • Designed to give high-potential and underrepresented business owners the tools to succeed and sustain growth in the retail industry.
  • Provide distinctive merchandise while also driving innovation and economic impact.
 The 2021 class was our 10th Anniversary, following the postponement for one year due to the emerging pandemic. However, The Workshop has been operating consistently since we created it. The classwork is only one component as there is also ongoing mentoring of our alumni. While the pandemic delayed our 2020 class, we were happy to accommodate this cohort, with the 2021 class of participating businesses. In the more than 10 years of its existence, we have continued to elevate the curriculum, to further meet the business and educational needs of the participants.

How has the program changed over the years? 

As a result of the pandemic, we now have a virtual Workshop class environment, leading us to increase the program curriculum from one week to two. As part of this new curriculum, we’ve added some new core sessions as well as some optional classes for participants to take. In addition to Babson College, we’re excited to have also added Facebook as an external partner at The Workshop. Perhaps most exciting for anyone looking to experience the brands participating, we will also be inviting them to sell their products directly on for the entire month the Workshop is taking place – this opportunity includes being featured within the regular shopping pool, as well as on our diverse-owned sitelet.

What does it mean for a brand to be selected by “The Workshop”? What doors can “The Workshop” open? 

First and foremost, the specially designed business development curriculum is aimed at diverse- and women-owned retail businesses that are poised to succeed on a larger level and sustain growth. The Workshop provides these businesses with the knowledge, resources and tools to achieve business objectives and to scale their enterprises. And, as I mentioned earlier, the brands are also invited to sell their products on – an opportunity that gives them GREAT exposure! Participants are also given access to our industry experts, including our merchant, marketing, and financial leaders.

We’ve had quite a few of our graduates experience successful growth! You may even recognize a few of our most successful program alumnus below:

  • Urban Hydration (Class of 2011) is carried in over 7500 specialty stores, plus Amazon, Target, Walmart, Ulta. Etc.
  • Alex Woo (Class of 2012) is carried by Nordstrom, Amazon, etc.
  • The Lip Bar (Class of 2014) is carried on Target and Amazon
    • In 2018, the owner said her company was worth over $7M
  • Parisian Pet (Class of 2019) is carried by Walmart, Amazon, Chewy, and many specialty stores
  • LaQuan Smith (Class of 2015) is at Saks Fifth Avenue, ASOS, Farfetch and Revolve
All of these brands, with the exception of LaQuan Smith, are carried on

How do your DEI programs support innovation and innovative thinking within the organization? 

DEI is embedded in our business strategy and helps us build innovation in the following ways:

  • It creates meaningful connections with our customers through education and respect.
  • Drives growth amongst diverse- and women-owned suppliers and ensures our assortment reflects all customers.
  • Optimizes marketing efforts to ensure diversity is reflected at all points (content, channels, etc.)
  • Empowers store colleagues to exceed customer expectations through ongoing education.
  • It helps us create programs and tools to drive colleague engagement and development.

What excites you most about the changing retail industry? 

The industry is now strongly acknowledging the need for greater diversity in all aspects of the business and putting forth some very strong efforts. Retailers are beginning to conduct research to gain a deeper and greater understanding of how they are being perceived. The industry is also recognizing that consumers are becoming more and more conscientious about where they shop and the values those brands represent.

How can brands/companies get involved with “The Workshop”?

We are accepting applications now for the 2022 class! Brands/Companies are welcome to apply at
You can also learn more about RILA’s Diversity & Inclusion program here or reach out to Erin Hiatt at

This is the second in a series of blogs about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the retail industry - explore the latest via the button below. 

For more blogs, webinars, and innovative content be sure to visit the Retail Innovation Center’s Insights on-Demand webpage or reach out to Katie Nicholos at
  • Retail Innovation Center
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Technology & Innovation
  • Diversity

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