Target diversity executive demands ‘white women’ use their voice to combat systemic racism

Target Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Kiera Fernandez claimed that it’s the role of white women to call out transgressions and systemic racism, telling a white employee that because of her race, her voice carries more weight and she has a responsibility to do so.

She also noted that the retail giant was making some of its internal decisions based on shifting demographics.

“One of the hardest things in the world to be every day is black,” Fernandez declared in a video interview with Essence Magazine in January.

Target is heavily pushing its DEI efforts. It has established the Racial Equity Action and Change program that is led by Fernandez to rapidly “accelerate” those goals. The push centers on engaging black customers in stores and recruiting/promoting black employees. The store also vowed to drastically increase its black employee demographic to 50%, according to Fox News.

“[W]e’re on track to spend more than $2 billion with black-owned brands by 2025. We’ve already increased our investments with black-owned companies and suppliers – including marketing agencies, construction companies, facilities maintenance, and more – by 50% since 2020,” Fernandez told HR Digest in July 2022 during an interview concerning Target.

And in that shift, it’s important for us to… think about how do we start planting seeds today that prepare for those future… demographic shifts,” she noted during a 2021 panel from Twin Cities Business Talks: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

(Video Credit: Twin Cities Business)

She went on to assert that it was the role of “white women” to call out “transgressions.”

“I think the number one thing that I would encourage white women to do is take the [DEI] learnings… and use your voice… so the woman of color in the room doesn’t always have to.”

At that point in the discussion, she singled out a white person that was present and said her voice would be given more weight in the workplace.

“Because whether it’s right or not… there are places that you and I will go where your voice will be heard differently than mine. And that is why we’re doing this work. That’s why it’s so important to have this conversation. But we also can’t ignore the systemic history that got us here and then the things that we have to do differently to remove those barriers,” Fernandez charged.

“[Target’s] tolerance for intolerance will definitely be a significant challenge to any company that’s thinking about how they build a culture. It was talking about culture like that’s so deeply woven in your strategy. It has to be,” she contended. “So it is daunting. It’s not for the faint-hearted… But it gets easier every day.”

“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… DE&I is not meant to rest on one individual’s shoulders,” Fernandez stated. “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.”

She also previously told employees in a video from June of 2021 that they should either get on board with the company’s woke agenda or leave. She was speaking with two DEI officers from 3M and Cargill and the VP of Career and Professional Development at St. Catherine University at the time.

“Not everyone is going to believe or be bought into our strategies and our priorities on this topic. They just aren’t,” Fernandez stated. “And so when we talk about leader accountability and the importance of representation and strategies and goals being integrated into someone’s responsibility like just to be really pragmatic and practical, then it becomes, ‘ok we may not be able to change your mind-shift on appreciating why this is important, but you do understand that as a part of your job responsibilities, you will lead inclusively, you will have representation on your team, you will be responsible for these behaviors, values, and expectations.’”

“And it also quite frankly puts a lot on the folks that don’t believe in this, but emphasizes that you still have to do it to be a part of this company,” she continued. “And eventually you’ll see a change in their mindset, or they may leave and, you know, that’s a part of this process too. This isn’t for everyone. But what has to be for everyone is accountability and accountability comes with transparency.”

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