Target’s Kiera Fernandez Shares How We’re Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outside Our Walls

August 3, 2021 - Article reads in
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An image of Kiera Fernandez, chief Diversity, equity and inclusion officer with colorful partial circles behind her.

Here at the Bullseye, we have a long-standing belief that every team member has a role to play in championing a more inclusive society. And we know a lot of important work starts right, well, at work. That’s why we created a dedicated diversity and inclusion team more than 15 years ago. The strategy that the team has developed, and every step since, has led to new learnings, insight and — importantly — the recruitment and retention of more diverse team members, more products from more diverse suppliers, a new direction for our philanthropic spending to communities of color, and more equity for all.

And while we’re still always learning, we’re ready to share Target’s journey toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion with other individuals and organizations on similar paths. The result: “Growing the Circle: Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Together,” a forum where Target leaders and partners share wins, insight and resources to help fuel diversity, equity and inclusion with industry peers. The inaugural event, held late July, brought together 1,500 peers and partners. We sat down with Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Kiera Fernandez to dive deeper into the event’s aim and inspiration.

OK, Kiera, this is a big moment for Target and a big role for you share how you arrived at this place.

I’ll start by sharing that I recently celebrated my first year as chief diversity and inclusion officer. It’s been a pretty incredible year. We faced a global pandemic, we stood convicted in our fight for racial justice and we leaned into conversations with colleagues and loved ones about the importance of well-being against the backdrop of a dynamic and evolving environment. There were days when I wondered if I had the skill and leadership to bring this work forward, but then I thought about the team, the tremendous support of leaders and the guests that are depending on us to bring joy to their lives. I knew we had a foundation built on bedrock, a committed team and unwavering leadership support.

The change we aspire to spark cannot be done by one person, one team or one company. It takes a village, a community, an ecosystem to bring lasting and sustainable change. So, I arrived at this place through 20 years of roles across the company, 20 years of development, 20 years of good days and tough (really tough) days, with the love of my family, the mentorship and sponsorship of leaders, the prayers of my grandparents and the belief that there are no small things. We all have the opportunity to change the world for the better. I’m just blessed and honored to be at this place, at this time, in this company.

And building on that foundation led us to Growing the Circle. That feels really big why Target?

Given the calls for racial equity over the past year, we know that many companies are standing up or deepening their investments in their diversity and inclusion work. We want to share our journey and expertise with others so together we can build strategies, tools and best practices to drive change. That’s why we convened this first-ever forum, to champion continued learning, shared accountability and transparency in the practice of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).

We know we aren’t the only company doing this work. Many are similarly deepening investments in DE&I. It felt more important than ever to share our journey with others to offer what we’ve learned and drive societal change. DE&I is not meant to rest on one individual’s shoulders. This work requires shared accountability and responsibility, which is why it’s so critical to create an infrastructure — a system with tools that allow you to integrate DE&I into your ecosystem in a way that truly drives your business.

So tell us about the event itself. How did it come together? What was on the agenda?

The half-day event was all about learning and inspiration, dissecting how we’ll scale the important work of DE&I. During each session, we invited experts across industries to sit down with Target’s leadership team, including CEO Brian Cornell, to discuss topics around scaling DE&I efforts through shared accountability, the opportunity of data transparency and building an inclusive work environment, and more. From guest experience to work environment, workforce diversity to societal impact, each discussion reflected one of the diversity and inclusion strategic pillars here at Target, and demonstrated how we’ve embedded equity throughout our business. All the credit goes to my DE&I team and our communications partners. They brought this vision to life, and I am so proud of their work.

And it was meant be inclusive and collaborative, right? Tell us who participated in bringing it together and sharing information.

In addition to some great external speakers, we also had many senior leaders at Target speaking, including Chief External Engagement Officer Laysha Ward, Chief Information Officer Mike McNamara and Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer, among others. It reflects just how deeply embedded DE&I is across the organization.

Also joining us are some amazing vendor partners who have been on this journey with us. DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson sat down with Brian and me to talk about how to make diversity, equity and inclusion everyone’s responsibility — starting with those at the top. Naturade CEO Claude Tellis joined Chief Growth Officer Christina Hennington and others to discuss how supporting diverse suppliers is good for your team, business and community. And North Side Achievement Zone CEO Sondra Samuels spoke with Laysha and Chief Legal & Risk Officer Don Liu about how businesses and community partners can work together to multiply their impact.

That sounds like a lot for one morning! Any final thoughts for folks who are feeling inspired and want to jump in?

It was indeed a lot of ground to cover — and in the interest of learning and growing together, we’ve made all of the content and resources shared during Growing the Circle available online. We hope that other organizations and companies are able to adapt this information to whatever stage of the DE&I journey they’re on. Our hope is that, by the end of the day, everyone has the tools and resources to jump-start or scale DE&I efforts, fresh perspectives, new ideas, and a greater sense of connectedness with the broader DE&I landscape. I’ll end with this: Don’t be afraid to share your diversity, equity and inclusion story with others around you. Ask for help, reflect on what you’ve learned. Only then will we effectively grow the circle.

Browse more resources from “Growing the Circle: Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Together.” And check out our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion page for more information on Target’s commitment to DE&I, including our Workforce Diversity Report and updates from our Racial Equity Action and Change committee.

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