Posted: 7.14.17 Social Responsibility

Hitting the Bull’s-Eye on Diversity and Inclusion — Recognizing Target for Promoting Equality in Retail

By: Lauren Keys

The Crunch: From fostering strong female leaders to its introduction of unique shopping carts for those with special needs, Target continues to demonstrate its commitment to promoting equitable experiences. Diversity and inclusion drive many of the popular retail chain’s decisions, and this is apparent in the demographics of its workforce and even in the products that fill the shelves of its 1,800 stores across 49 states. With its push for body diversity and acceptance through its recent swim campaign to sections of beauty and grocery dedicated to cultural products, Target has become a leader in retail by making team members and guests feel welcomed and accepted. For its efforts, we’re recognizing Target with our Editor’s Retail Choice Award™ for Inclusive Diversity Initiatives.

Women are responsible for 70-80% of the consumer economy, so it would make sense they would play a major role in retail leadership

Unfortunately, women hold only 5.6% of the CEO positions and 19.9% of the board seats out of all the retail companies in the S&P 500. However, at least one major US retailer is doing its part to reverse the trend by promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) among its ranks.

Target has a well-publicized record as a champion of inclusivity, and prioritizing strong female leadership is part of that effort. While Target leadership acknowledges more can, and will, be done to continue to recognize women’s efforts at all levels of leadership, the chain has already made great strides.

The proof is in the numbers for Target, where women make up 42% of its leadership team, 38% on its board of directors, and represent 54% of its manager workforce. Most companies tend to have a trickle-down effect from their leadership, and judging by recent developments, Target looks to be on track to continue to improve those numbers, which already far exceed industry benchmarks.

“Our CEO, Brian Cornell, sits on the Board of Directors for Catalyst, an organization committed to advancing women in leadership,” said Caroline Wanga, Target’s Chief Diversity Officer. “And just last month, Brian signed onto a pledge for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, an initiative dedicated to cultivating open conversations in the workplace and sharing best practices from business leaders around the globe.”

Target’s Caroline Wanga told us about some of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Brian has said his experiences with female leaders — including Indra Nooyi at Pepsi and Ellen Marram at Tropicana — have led to this championing of women that’s so prevalent at Target, and he spoke about this at the 2016 Catalyst Awards Conference in New York.

“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,” Brian said.

D&I goes beyond women in leadership at Target. Its D&I team also encourages the organization to consider all dimensions of difference — including things like age, race and religion. This focus is apparent in three key areas: with its team, guests, and communities. For its efforts, DealCrunch is recognizing Target with our Editor’s Retail Choice Award™ for Inclusive Diversity Initiatives.

“At Target, we recognize that there is shared accountability for D&I, and that the entire enterprise is responsible for implementing it across the business,” Caroline said. “This shared accountability means everyone across the business is collectively contributing to Target’s shared success.”

Target Works Alongside National Organizations to Encourage Diversity in Its Workforce

While Target certainly has strong ties to Catalyst, the chain also partners with a number of other national organizations to ensure an inclusive environment and workforce. Other groups Target works alongside include the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, GLSEN, the National Urban League, and The Mission Continues.

“Additionally, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding help us create a work environment that is inclusive of people from all walks of life and those on different points of the faith spectrum,” Caroline said.

With more than 320,000 team members across more than 1,800 stores in 49 states, it’s important to remember that customer-facing employees make the biggest impression on customers in each community, and Target wants each store’s workforce to reflect the demographics of its locations.

Placing kiosks in stores that encourage people to apply for jobs and hosting job fairs with organizations, like the Management Leadership for Tomorrow, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, the National Black MBA Association, and Reaching Out MBA, help ensure fair hiring practices.

“Through relationships — like our partnership through the Alliance for Board Diversity, which are supported at the highest levels of Target — we can better understand and fulfill the needs of the guests and communities we serve,” Caroline said. “This helps us grow and develop our team member population, but these relationships also help us grow and champion an inclusive society.”

Product Choices and Store Initiatives Create an Inclusive Environment for Guests

Customer feedback has inspired many of the retailer’s innovations and product decisions over the years. Some of these changes are even noticeable along the aisles of a Target store.

“Within toys, we work to ensure that we offer dolls that represent a broader set of our guest population,” Caroline said. “In beauty, we’ve prioritized African-American hair care. And in food, we’re ensuring that, for our Hispanic guests, in particular, they are able to find food offerings that represent their culture.”

Target has also had a longstanding open-door policy, which allows team members to weigh in on areas for improvement.

“At Target, we want to ensure our team members always feel welcome in sharing their thoughts, experiences, and perspectives,” Caroline said. “Additionally, we work on creating an inclusive environment with our headquarters team through employee resource groups like our African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Military, Women’s, and LGBTQ business councils. These groups meet regularly and have strong leadership support.”

To better serve shoppers with special needs children, Target rolled out Caroline’s Cart in most of its stores in 2016.

The chain’s open-door policy actually resulted in a storewide improvement to accommodate the needs of shoppers with disabled children. One Target team member had a child with special needs and suggested the store adopt Caroline’s Cart, which is a specially designed shopping cart to help guests avoid having to push around a cart and wheelchair. In February 2016, Target announced every store with full-size shopping carts will also provide Caroline’s Carts.

Leading Change, Target Strives for Equality in All Areas of Business

Already recognized among retailers as a leader in D&I, Target continues to listen to feedback from its guests and national organizations in an effort to prioritize equality across all of its stores. The chain attained a score of 100 in the HRC’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index and was named one of the top companies for executive women in 2016 by the National Association for Female Executives, among other acknowledgments.

“We are proud of our continued presence on the Top 50 list for DiversityInc, and we’re especially proud to be one of only a few retailers on that list,” Caroline said. “We’re in the second year of D&I goals for how we leverage diverse suppliers, how we market, how we localize our product assortment, and how we support our philanthropic efforts, as well as how we ensure we have a team that wants to come to Target and stay at Target,” Caroline said.

For its commitment to equality in hiring practices and its focus on creating a welcoming environment for shoppers of every demographic, we’re recognizing Target with our Editor’s Retail Choice Award™ for Inclusive Diversity Initiatives, and we hope other retailers follow Target’s example in fostering a community of inclusion in the industry.

“While we are proud of our representation at senior levels, we are working to continually improve,” Caroline said. “We are working to achieve parity, in tools, resources, investments, and relationships, to give everyone across Target an equitable experience.”

About The Author

Lauren Keys is an industry professional with a background in retail environments and service-oriented experiences. From a brick-and-mortar past, Lauren analyzes the shifting world of retail from both consumer and organizational perspectives as the industry seeks to grow online engagement with special offers and deals.

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