At Kohl’s, we are striving to empower more families through equity, diversity and inclusion, and our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) are core to our culture of belonging. Kohl’s BRGs make an impact across the organization by leading cultural celebrations, offering opportunities for diverse talent to grow in their career with leadership and mentoring opportunities, driving strategy by acting as a key resource to various business units across the organization, and working directly with nonprofits that connect with their communities.
As part of its Black History Month celebration, Kohl’s Black Professionals BRG recently invited Milwaukee native Lindsay Peoples Wagner to meet with them to discuss her experiences as a Black professional in the fashion and media industries. Lindsay is the only Black woman editor-in-chief in the United States, a 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 honoree and newly-appointed editor in chief of The Cut, New York Magazine’s site for women, covering style, self, culture and power. As a prominent voice for Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in fashion, Lindsay also co-founded the Black in Fashion Council to build a new foundation for inclusivity and drive systemic change.
An excerpt of the conversation is provided below.
Kohl’s Black Professionals BRG: What has been the best advice you've received in overcoming challenges?
I would say that comparison can really steal your own joy. I think a lot of times, especially with social media, you can easily look at someone else and think, “Oh, they're doing that,” or “Why can't I do that yet?” When you are struggling, it can be easy to glorify what other people are doing and compare yourself to where they are in their career. I had to decide that I'm doing what I want to do and what I know I was called to do. Whether I make it to that point or not, I'm doing what my purpose is in this life and it will happen in the way that it's supposed to happen.
Kohl’s BRG: You said a key word there: purpose. You are walking in your purpose right now. I see that a lot of people may not have that understanding of who they are yet, so how can you encourage someone to identify their purpose?
I think self-awareness of how you feel and how you are moving through the world is really important. Being able to spend time with a therapist -- talking with someone who's not your friend, not in your social circle, not at work and to be able to brainstorm what you really want to do - is wildly helpful. I highly recommend it.
I thought about the question: “If I was not making any money, what would I really want to do?” For me, the answer was making changes in the industry and affecting the most change. I love visuals. I love imagery. I love fashion. I can make changes as far as representation and diversity and inclusion by being able to be in a position of power to choose who's on a cover and who's given these platforms to be part of a larger cultural conversation.
Kohl’s BRG: What inspires you to go out every day to do the work that you're doing?
I want to make sure that I'm making the changes I really want to see. I consider what I needed when I was younger and what I needed when I was little Lindsay growing up in Wisconsin. Many of my decisions now come from asking myself what I needed when I was 13, 14 or 15. I think, “If we put this person on the cover, that would make this young person feel really seen and heard.” That is how I think about a lot of my decisions every day: what can I do for the younger version of me and how can I make that better? Even on the hard days, I haven't earned the right to not work hard so that other young people of color have better opportunities and have it better than me. That’s the goal.
Kohl’s BRG: What kind of advice would you give on the importance of mentorship?
Mentorship is everything, including being able to get real, objective advice. To that point, it’s important to receive advice that tells you when you're not ready for certain things. While I had been freelancing at a major fashion publication, an editor role became available. I thought I was going to get the job, and have my big break. My boss at the time called me and told me she didn’t think that it was the right role for me – that I should be doing something more with creative styling, whereas this job was purely writing. I bawled on the phone because I was really desperate for a full-time job, but she told me she wanted to mentor me.
After working with her longer, she told me about a job at The Cut as an editor and thought I was ready for it and would recommend me. That’s how I prepared for my new job. It was a huge life lesson and really showed me the power of having a strong mentor who has your best interests in mind.
To read more about Kohl’s BRGs and Kohl’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, visit Corporate.Kohls.com.