Article: Career Lessons from Kiera Fernandez: Helping Workers Helps the Business

By: Novid Parsi

August 27, 2021

 

Target didn’t suddenly start thinking about social justice in 2020, when protests and turmoil roiled the U.S. The company already had a robust diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy, according to Kiera Fernandez, Target’s senior vice president of talent and change and chief diversity and inclusion officer.

 

That strategy has been in place for roughly 16 years. The company spent the first nine of those years establishing its DE&I office, team and capabilities. It used the following years to refine its strategy, goals, metrics and outcomes to get where it is today, Fernandez says. “That’s really important because in order to launch DE&I initiatives [last year], we had to stand on a really firm foundation,”  she explains.

 

The company’s efforts have produced results. Since 2019, Target (the nation’s eighth largest retailer by sales, according to the National Retail Federation) has increased the number of people of color it employs in exempt roles by 15 percent. The number of women promoted to senior leadership roles is up by 17 percent.

 

Even so, Fernandez acknowledges that the company’s DE&I foundation wasn’t as solid as it could have been by last year. About 75 percent of Target’s leadership team is white, 8 percent Latinx and 8 percent Black, according to the company’s 2019 Workforce Diversity Report, while Target’s overall workforce is 50 percent white, 25 percent Latinx and 15 percent Black.

 

“We weren’t accelerating a number of our priorities across our Black team member, guest and community populations in the same way we saw it progress across other parts of our business,” Fernandez says.

 

The events of 2020 forced the company to accelerate those priorities—and fast.

 

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