When it comes to advocating for women in leadership, Target CEO Brian Cornell has a personal stake in the game. He supports the mission of Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization focused on advancing women in leadership. Brian was appointed to Catalyst’s board of directors this year, and he attended his first board meeting today. He and Laysha Ward, Target’s chief corporate social responsibility officer, are both guest speakers at the annual Catalyst Awards Conference in New York. Target’s a sponsor of the event, which honors organizations and initiatives from around the world that are helping to drive change.
A Bullseye View caught up with Brian and Laysha earlier today to ask them a few questions:
Brian, what inspired you to join Catalyst’s board? What are you most excited about?
Brian: I’m excited to serve with a tremendous group of peers in guiding and governing Catalyst. We all believe in the Catalyst mission of accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion—and the work will help us close gaps, foster equity and create opportunities for all leaders.
Why are you personally committed to advancing women in leadership?
Brian: Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with—and for—excellent leaders. Like Indra Nooyi at Pepsi, and before that, Ellen Marram, CEO of Tropicana, at a time when very few women were CEOs. My message at the conference is around my hope for the future: that our next generation of leaders won’t remember a time when it was unusual for women to lead at all levels.
How is your commitment to diversity reflected in Target’s team and Board of Directors?
Brian: Last week, Target’s Board met in Minneapolis, and diversity and inclusion were main topics on the agenda. Laysha shared some encouraging analysis. Women make up 36% of our Board and 45% of our C-Suite—both well above industry and external benchmarks. We’re pleased about that, but we have more work to do. During that meeting, we also elected our second new director in four months, both women. What I love is that while we were discussing our progress, we were actively making more progress.
Laysha, you mentor and sponsor many talented women. What does it take for a woman to be successful in today’s workplace?
Laysha: I think it takes someone who’s bold, courageous, curious and resilient. A person who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo, who’s learned from those who paved the way before her and is willing to extend a hand to those who follow. She is purposeful and brings her unique dimensions of difference to all that she is and does. Those personal differences are our greatest strength when creating an inclusive environment where we all feel welcome, valued, respected and able to bring our full selves to work every day. That leads to sustainable success.
In your opening remarks this morning, you talked about how we’re all collectively accountable for making progress. Tell us more.
Laysha: I think we all want to be the best version of ourselves for our companies, families and communities. This requires us to be accountable as individuals and collectively. We’ve made progress, but we have more work to do. That goes for men too, because we’ve all been shaped by amazing women, and we all need to work to create environments where women and men can thrive in equal measure.
As leaders, what do you feel are the benefits of cultivating a diverse and inclusive workplace? How does that impact our guests and their shopping experience?
Laysha: It’s not charity or a moral imperative—it’s good business. Diversity and inclusion, when fully optimized and integrated into a company’s culture, create a competitive advantage that positions our organizations to offer innovative and relevant experiences for our guests and grow profitable sales and market share.
Brian: What I’ve seen throughout my career is the power that individuals and trusted brands can bring to the quest for greater opportunity and equality. By better understanding and serving our guests, by striving to create a more diverse and inclusive career environment and workforce, and by being smart and purposeful about the range of products and experiences we bring to market, we help create a better Target for our team and guests—and a better society for all.