Albertsons Chief Diversity Officer: Commit to diversity and inclusion to be the best

By Lottie Watts

Albertsons Companies Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Jonathan Mayes answers “20 Questions” about the continued work around diversity, equity and inclusion at the tenth largest company on NRF’s Top 100 Retailers list.

Here are a few of the questions submitted by undergraduate students nationwide – along with answers from Mayes.

How can companies make diversity and inclusion a genuine core value of their mission without it seeming superficial?

It begins at the top. It begins with a leader of the organization who is willing to say: time out. Enough is enough. We’ve been talking about this for a long time. Let’s do something that has impact – just like my company did.

We believe it’s important to act. The framework to achieve the aspiration is all set up so that we can move the needle as a company. The research is very clear. If you’re going to be the best version of yourself as a company, and you’re serious about it, then you cannot say you’re committed to it without also saying you’re committed to diversity and inclusion. That’s how you move from the superficial to the real and to the impactful.

How do you think companies can incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into every pillar of their business?

Once you have the commitment of the leadership, it begins at looking strategically at every step of an employee’s experience.

How do we go about the interview process? Are the slates diverse? Do folks who are part of the diverse umbrella – do they feel they have a chance to work at the organization? Are we letting folks know that we respect them and want them to work for us? It begins there. Once they’re with us, what resources are we providing in terms of mentorship, sponsorship and help to grow in their career?  

How does an offering such as curbside pickup create a more inclusive and equitable experience for customers?

When we think about diversity, equity and inclusion, we often think about ethnic diversity, or gender diversity, or LGBTQ. But often times when we think about inclusion, we don’t think about people who are differently abled.

One of the things I love about curbside is our customers who have mobility challenges can just stay in their car. It’s such a great convenience for them, so that’s one of the things we’re doing to help become more inclusive for customers.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I’m passionate about everybody being treated fairly. I love that I have a chance to share this message every day at work.

The thing that’s most rewarding is when a message is shared, lives are changing. People are saying, “I had not realized that I am turning these biases against certain groups” or “I hadn’t realized what it’s like to be in the shoes of somebody who has been discriminated against for no other reason than they’re just showing up as themselves.”

And so eyes are being opened, and then we’re providing tools to help them mitigate bias. And people are writing to me and saying, “Thank you for raising my awareness of what it’s like and what I can do about it.”  

What is some advice you have for students or soon-to-be graduates on how to work to reach top leadership positions?

Start with the end in mind. Think about what it is that you want to be in 10, 20 and 30 years. Then work with and partner with folks in those roles and ask them what steps they took to get to where they are.

It’s all about finding people who you respect and who have good judgment and more experience. Say to them, “This is what I think I want to do professionally. What advice do you have to help me get there?”

There’s also no substitute for hard work, so be willing to put in the time to learn and to do the work.

In addition to our on-demand conversations with retail professionals, NRF Foundation All Access includes an updated job listings page to connect students with retail recruiters offering full-time roles and internships. Check out the opportunities here.  

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