A Closer Look at Kohl’s D&I Journey – Q&A with Kohl’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion


Kohl’s today released its 2020 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report, which provides the opportunity to reflect on the progress and impact Kohl’s has made in several areas over the past year, including diversity and inclusion (D&I). We recently sat down with Lydia Smith, Kohl’s director of diversity and inclusion, to discuss and reflect on Kohl’s D&I journey throughout the past year, including how D&I has changed and evolved at Kohl’s, what she is most proud of, and more. 

Q. How did we move D&I forward this year at Kohl's?
This year, we evolved our D&I strategy to focus on people, communities, and customers to more closely align to our overall company strategy. This effort is far more than just an HR program – my team has worked diligently with teams across the company to embed D&I into everything we do, from technology, to product development, to marketing and more. We've created a D&I Task Force to ensure that we are embedding D&I into our company strategy. In addition, our Diversity Design Council was created so that our products sold are reflective of the diversity of our customers and our marketing efforts are inclusive as well. We continue to identify more opportunities to build meaningful relationships in underrepresented communities to help us attract a more diverse workforce and create opportunities for economic empowerment through our supplier diversity programs.

Q. As you reflect over the past year, what are you most proud of?
I'm proud of how we have worked collaboratively across the business to drive results for our D&I strategy. We’re declaring something we’ve always felt and putting intention, accountability and action behind it. Diversity and inclusion isn’t an accessory or an add-on. It’s woven into the fabric of who we are, how we do business and the positive difference we want to make in the world. 

Q. From your perspective, what are the biggest drivers of having an inclusive culture?
I believe leaders demonstrating inclusivity is one of the biggest drivers of creating an inclusive culture within a company. We have to be intentional about creating an environment where all associates not only feel that they belong and are supported, but can speak up and be heard. A strong, inclusive culture is where associates feel valued for who they are, not just what they do. 

Q. What are some ways leaders can encourage courageous conversations among their teams?
Leaders can encourage conversations by setting aside specific time on meeting agendas and creating a "space for grace," which means letting people know that they can be vulnerable and transparent without worry of saying the wrong thing. It’s imperative that leaders model these behaviors and actively participate in order to encourage brave and courageous conversations among their teams. 

Q. Kohl's announced its Pledge for Progress in 2021, outlining key areas of focus for impactful change. What are you most excited about in relation to this Pledge?
I think we've gotten a great start on the "people" work in our pledge. I'm really excited about building impactful relationships in diverse communities and creating meaningful change for our customers. Kohl's prides itself on the privilege to serve all families, and I am encouraged by our commitment and action to make everyone feel welcomed and valued at Kohl's.

To learn more about Kohl’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, or to access Kohl’s 2020 ESG Report, visit Corporate.Kohls.com