For Minneapolis-based Target, the social unrest sparked last year by the police killing of George Floyd hit home. Less than two weeks after his death, the company pledged $10 million to social justice organizations, committed to providing 10,000 hours of pro bono consulting services for business owners of color in the Twin Cities area and established a racial equity action and change committee (REACH).
The work builds on more than a decade of D&I strategy for Target, according to Kiera Fernandez, SVP of HR and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Target, and a member of the REACH committee. In an email interview with HR Dive, she explained how Target is aiming to provide leadership pathways for its Black employees. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How has Target answered the call to implement systemic DEI changes?
Fernandez: Target views diversity, equity and inclusion as business imperatives; we have had a diversity and inclusion strategy for more than 15 years and we set measurable goals every three years. Every business unit leader tracks, reports on and is held accountable for diversity and inclusion goals for their team.
In September 2020, in addition to issuing our Workplace Diversity Report, we also announced systemic changes to increase the representation of Black team members across the company by 20% over the next three years. To accomplish this goal, we are focusing on:
Leveraging our store, supply chain and headquarter experiences to provide broader leadership pathways for Black team members.
Developing programs to hire and retain Black team members in career areas with low levels of representation, including technology, data sciences, merchandising and marketing.
Increasing our network of mentors and sponsors to help Black team members accelerate and advance their careers.
Ensuring our benefits and partnerships drive wellness and safety for Black team members.
Conducting anti-racist trainings for leaders and team members that educate, build inclusion acumen and foster a sense of belonging.
What does Target measure with respect to its DEI goals?
Fernandez: Our diversity and inclusion goals are focused on three primary areas: working to have a team that’s more representative of our guests; helping all team members have an inclusive experience; and investing in suppliers, products and marketing that help us meet the needs of all guests.
We measure many dimensions of difference across our goals. One example is our supplier diversity goal, which measures the amount we spend with companies that are owned by women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans and people with disabilities.
How has the company progressed in these goals?
Fernandez: Through 2020, we increased the representation and advancement of women of color and people of color; increased sales in product categories that help make us relevant for all guests; and are on track to meet our spending goal with diverse suppliers.
You began your career at Target in 2001 as an executive team leader for stores, ultimately serving in a variety of leadership roles. How has the company supported your leadership progression?
Fernandez: Target has leadership programs to foster advancement within the enterprise. For example, we often rotate leaders among stores, supply chain [centers] and headquarters to broaden their leadership experiences. I’m a perfect example of this leadership philosophy. When I began my career at Target, I joined as an executive team leader at a Target store, then subsequently served in a variety of leadership roles across the company. I led teams in merchandising, stores, operations and human resources. I then transitioned to HR leadership, where I currently serve as senior vice president of talent and change and chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Did you have mentors and sponsors within the organization?
Fernandez: I did have mentors and sponsors who advocated for me, exposed me to roles and experiences that accelerated my career and, frankly, stood in the gap when others in the room questioned my capabilities or potential. We need mentors to help us manage through our day-to-day growth moments, and sponsors to be our champions in the rooms we don’t sit in, using their voices and power to get us a seat at the table.