In recognition and celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Michelle A. Banks, our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, spoke with Courtney Carey, Kohl’s Human Resource associate and Hispanic Y Latino Business Resource Group member (HLBRG), about their diverse experiences and perspectives. Check out how Kohl’s is empowering Hispanic associates, customers and communities year-round.
Courtney Carey (CC): Hi Michelle, it’s great to talk with you! Now that you’ve been in your role for a little over a year, what do you think is most misunderstood or underestimated about DEI, especially when it comes to Hispanic and Latino communities?
Michelle Banks (MB): It’s great to connect with you too, especially about this important topic. When it comes to DEI, it’s critical to keep in mind that it takes everyone. It’s not the sole responsibility of the BIPOC community to create change. During my time at Kohl’s, I have been deeply moved by some of the stories I've heard about valuing people and their individual experiences, and celebrating differences. And while we thoughtfully amplify these stories so our customers and associates can see themselves reflected in Kohl’s, we also have to build strategies, tools and programs to drive change. This work is about acknowledging and facing the inequities in this country that have resulted from generations of systemic racism and disadvantages for underrepresented groups. We know other companies across the retail industry are working to change the narrative as well. We are all on this journey together, inspiring to do good each and every day. Through continued learning and shared accountability we can inspire empathy, create an environment of belonging, and identify and address bias.
CC: For sure. It’s so important for everyone to realize that embedding DEI in everything you do requires an ongoing journey of listening, learning and taking action. There’s no reward without action.
MB: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now, with Hispanic Heritage Month underway, can you tell us more about Kohl’s HLBRG and your role in it? What are you most proud of as it relates to the work the group has been able to accomplish in the community?
CC: The HLBRG is a place for Hispanic and Latino Kohl’s associates and allies to come together to celebrate Latino culture and cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce. I’m a Field Ambassador, which means I help bring awareness about the HLBRG and all it has to offer to our stores associates. My proudest moment was participating in the implementation and expansion of the Mentoring In New Dimensions (M.I.N.D.) program, which is a BRG-based program that helps create mentorships across the company. Seeing this program come to fruition and helping Kohl's associates find connections that they have been searching for both personally and professionally was extremely rewarding. It's another program that sets Kohl's apart and makes it a more engaging place to work!
MB: It’s truly inspiring to see how our associates come together to promote diversity, equity and inclusion across the business. It’s a team effort, so having everyone on board only makes us stronger.
CC: I agree. It’s beautiful when our associates come together to enact change, but when the company you work for has a strong direction you feel better about your overall work environment. When looking from a broader company perspective, what initiatives does Kohl’s have to make a positive impact on Hispanic customers, associates and communities?
MB: We’ve put several initiatives in place to drive change for the good of our Hispanic associates, customers and communities. From an associate perspective, we’ve expanded our talent attraction practices to make more meaningful connections with Hispanic professionals, including broadening our reach at places like diverse colleges and universities such as Alverno College, Texas State University and San Jose State University. By listening to the stories of these colleges and universities, Kohl’s has been able to drive economic empowerment for students. For example, Kohl’s Scholars program at Alverno College, a $25,000 commitment from Kohl’s that awards a $5,000 scholarship to five Alverno students for the 2022-23 school year, is a direct result of listening and then taking action.
On the customer side, while we have some more work to do to reach Hispanic customers, I’m proud of the recent work we’ve done to introduce new brands and products that better resonate with diverse customers. We’re continuing to drive a sense of belonging and creating a brand voice that reflects and celebrates the diversity of families. To that end, we recently introduced Sonoma Community – a new sub-brand of Kohl’s private-label flagship brand, Sonoma Goods for Life, offering product collections that celebrate DEI, everyday. The brand debuted this month with an assortment dedicated to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and features apparel and products from Koh’s Diversity Design Council – a group of associates dedicated to driving authenticity in our product design – to reflect the Hispanic and Latino culture and community, and I’m excited to see how this product resonates.
We’ve also invested more to meet the unique needs of Hispanic communities. We have strong charitable partners, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, that collaborate with us to enhance equity, economic empowerment and quality of life for Hispanic and other diverse families. These partnerships support Kohl’s broader commitment to donate $20 million in support of diverse communities by 2025.
CC: It’s really nice to hear Kohl’s commitment to pledge to the Hispanic community. It’s one thing to hear about all of the DEI initiatives the company has in place, but it’s even more fulfilling to see the direct impact.
MB: We have some awesome goals ahead of us and great progress underway. We believe we can create lasting change by addressing the inequities that surround Hispanic communities. Finally, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I’d love to know -- what makes you proud of your heritage?
CC: As a woman of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, I'm incredibly proud of my heritage. I come from a line of very hard working and very loving people. I am so thankful for every step my family took, from leaving Puerto Rico for a better life to selling tamales to putting food on the table. My parents and grandparents helped pave the path to the beautiful life my family and I are now living. I love celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, it truly reminds me what a beautiful culture I come from – one that celebrates life through music and incredible food, and above all, places value on family.
MB: Thank you so much for sharing, Courtney.
To learn more about our DEI strategy, visit Corporate.Kohls.com.