DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson in Conversation With Target CEO Brian Cornell on Why DEI Is Everyone’s Responsibility

Target (No. 29 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021) seems to have hit the bullseye. The retail giant recently released its 2020 Workforce Diversity Report, sharing and breaking down disaggregated racial and gender data across all levels of the organization.

To expand on the report’s findings, Target hosted its first virtual DEI forum, “Growing the Circle: Championing a Diverse, Equitable & Inclusive Society” on July 28, 2021. In a session titled “A CEO Perspective: How to Make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Everyone’s Responsibility,” Target CEO Brian Cornell and DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson talked about the progress being made at the company and what’s ahead for the organization.

Target’s Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Vice President of Human Resources, Kiera Fernandez, moderated the discussion and opened with a reminder of the company’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “We set goals every three years to hold ourselves accountable to the progress we want to make as an organization,” said Fernandez.

Based on strategy and goals, Target has increased the representation and advancement of women and people of color, and a big part of that success stems from strong leadership accountability and a deep understanding that it’s their job as leaders to promote change from the top down.

“One of the characteristics I see with Target is that you are making sure that you’re transparent with what is happening with your workforce by sharing the data,” Johnson said. “It’s not just talking about how people of color are doing, but also looking at the specific populations that make up that group. It’s not talking about just how women are doing, but also talking about how women are doing based on ethnicity, orientation and disabilities, both seen and unseen, to make sure we’re taking care of everyone.”

The diversity of Target’s 350,000-member workforce has also remained steady since the previous report.

“Over half of the workforce are women and over half are diverse,” Cornell said. “When I look at our leadership team, I’m really proud to be able to say that half of my direct reports are women and 25% are people of color. We’ve got an incredibly diverse workforce. Throughout our 1900 stores, half are led by women and a third are led by people of color.”

As in the past, Target leverages its workforce diversity data to conduct deeper analysis to clarify areas of focus, make more specific diversity, equity and inclusion commitments and hold themselves accountable for progress.

“When I think about how Target performs and why it ranked on the DiversityInc Top 50 list since 2008, leadership accountability is one of your strongest areas of performance,” Johnson said. “The diversity in Top 10 and Hall of Fame have a composite score of 85; Target has a composite score of 97. That is outstanding, and I think that helps people understand that it really is about leadership accountability.”

Johnson also noted how Target builds company culture by creating an environment where employees feel psychologically safe — an outcome that doesn’t necessarily always derive directly from official corporate initiatives.

“I think Target has done that in a very vulnerable way, that really makes people realize that they belong at Target, but they could also one day be the CEO of a Fortune 20 corporation,” Johnson said. “Outside of policies, practices, and procedures, how we connect with people, those are some of the ways I see companies at the top of our list and companies that have outstanding leadership accountability, like Target, show up.”

To view the event agenda and access full replays of the event, click here.

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