Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) is one of Kohler Co.’s guiding beliefs, and the topic has only intensified with the recent social movement against racism. As a key leader of the BLK Catalyst Business Resource Group (BRG), I’m part of a team that has taken an active role in helping to promote Kohler’s DEI efforts and to educate Kohler associates on this critical issue. For me, it’s about making sure that the Black voice is heard, and our experiences are understood and considered in business and culture decisions across the company.
We all need to understand that systemic racism is just that—systemic. It’s everywhere: wealth, education, employment, housing and even infant mortality. There’s no more denying it. Through a variety of initiatives, the BLK Catalyst group is encouraging our colleagues, and the company itself, to look within and tackle areas in which we may be unknowingly excluding specific demographics or not engaging underrepresented groups.
Here are some of ways we’re serving as a catalyst for change at Kohler Co.:
- Sparking conversation. BLK Catalyst has led and organized roundtable talks with President and CEO David Kohler, giving him a platform to listen and respond to the experiences of the Black community. We have also been a sounding board for the company to provide recommendations and feedback on how Kohler brands communicate externally. I believe David and our other leaders have gained a better understanding and are energized to make impactful, actionable moves against systemic racism.
- Celebrating freedom. Juneteenth is the holiday celebrating the emancipation of slavery in the United States. Before this year, it was not widely known, recognized, nor celebrated. Frankly, the details of Juneteenth expose the way law and order can be used against the oppressed. Although President Lincoln signed an executive order abolishing slavery in 1863, somehow it was not abided by the residents in Texas until June 19, 1865, officially freeing all people enslaved. To recognize the day, we promoted a community-based food truck event near Kohler headquarters, hosted a Watch & Discuss event for the film Just Mercy, and put together an educational thread highlighting the backstory of Juneteenth which was promoted among all Kohler North American associates. It seemed to resonate well and be unexpectedly enlightening to many. We celebrate our country’s freedom on July 4, but the freedom of all the people of this country is June 19.
- Uniting for purpose. In partnership with our Kohler Stewardship team, we created a “Hate Has No Home Here” t-shirt fundraiser for those interested in making a public declaration that hate speech and hateful actions against others will not be tolerated by the person or organization displaying the sign. (I later found out the phrase “Hate Has No Home Here” was the brainchild of children from a diverse Chicago neighborhood – an incredible feeling to be able to elevate Black youth and include them in the conversation). We received over 200 orders within the first two hours of release! All in, we’ve raised over $3,000 which will be donated to the Milwaukee Urban League (MUL). This is a local branch of the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.
There is still much work to be done and our journey continues. But I’m so delighted to see that our Kohler leaders are committed to change. Kohler’s DEI Board is growing and taking real action to fund and drive efforts that directly align with diversity and inclusion at all levels and across all departments especially those significantly underrepresented.
Looking ahead, my hope is this movement awakens more people to unite in authentic allyship. But in the meantime, I am passionate about serving as a catalyst for change and improvement, and I’m proud to work for a company that is an ally of the Black community and driven to be a part of the solution.