‘We Rise By Lifting Others’ - A Culture of Equity and Inclusion — From a DE&I Leader

Sponsored by KinderCare Learning Companies

Kelly Young

Image courtesy of KinderCare.

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Kelly Young is the Vice President of Talent Investment and Culture at KinderCare Learning Companies (KLC), the largest private provider of high-quality early childhood education and care services (“ECE”) in the United States by center capacity. In her role, Kelly and her team support this mission by creating learning experiences that are engaging, interactive and embedded in KinderCare’s culture. “I’m obsessed with creating amazing everyday experiences for both employees and families at KinderCare and have led the charge in making KinderCare an organization people can’t imagine a world without,” explains Kelly.

Kelly is also a key driver in helping KLC continuously improve their diversity initiatives, too. In fact, when KLC kicked off their focus on DE&I in 2020, Young acted as the initiative owner, driving the company’s organizational assessment work. One of the key elements of KLC’s DE&I efforts is their upcoming roster of employee resource groups (ERGs) — which Kelly is involved in creating!

Today, Kelly is currently sitting on the strategy team, which is designing an in-house DE&I learning experience for all audiences in the organization, including allyship training. However, she plans to step back and support other women who haven’t had the opportunity to be involved in these amazing groups just yet, especially as KLC continues to explore which ongoing DE&I programs are needed to support the company’s workforce.

“I’ve been involved in the creation of employee resource groups and plan to attend the women’s group as a member, and I strive to become an ally and advocate for all of our marginalized communities,” she tells Fairygodboss.

Here, we caught up with Kelly to learn more about KLC’s DE&I efforts and her advice for women and other companies in the space.

Tell me a bit about your KLC’s DE&I efforts and employee resource groups.

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 moved our organization to a whole-hearted investment in our own DE&I journey. This was the catalyst that led us to stand up in support of our Black employees and the Black community — because it’s the right thing to do.

As we continue to strive to become an organization where everyone thrives because they feel seen, heard, valued and empowered to be themselves, we took the time to listen to our employees — that’s where we heard that employee resource groups were our next step.

Tell me a bit about how ERGs work at KLC.

Our employee resource groups programs are just beginning. We first surveyed our employees to find out which employee resource groups they were interested in being a part of — and they told us! In March, we launched our first five employee resource groups with the organization. These employee resource groups employee resource groups will be self-governed and supported by Executive Allies. Each employee resource group will meet monthly and build out Key Performance Indicators specific to their goals and efforts. The goal is that we become an even more inclusive organization by connecting all of our employees, from teachers to senior leaders in the organization, through our employee resource groups.

What do you think other companies can learn from how KLC handles ERG’s and DEI initiatives?

The single most important thing we’ve learned is to take the time to listen to your employees. This is a crucial first step and can be difficult when organizations are looking to quickly take action. Creating a culture of equity and inclusion takes time and trust.

How has KLC engaged with or supported their communities? 

Learning begins at birth — and it never ever stops! We take our teaching seriously here because we know the first five years of life are the most critical in a child’s development. And our assessments show that we’re doing a great job! But families with young learners need more than great child care, which is why we give back to and partner with non-profit programs that enhance educational opportunities for children and families all over the country, including:

  • Kids In Need Foundation (KINF)

  • Schoolhouse Supplies

  • Start Making a Reader Today

  • The Children's Book Bank

  • The Dougy Center

  • Pride Northwest, Inc.

These organizations emphasize the importance of education equity, early childhood literacy, whole-child health and more.

Why do you believe that KLC is a particularly supportive place for women employees?

At KLC, not only are we a female-dominant workforce, we were also founded in 1969 in support of women entering the workforce. Women wanted careers, and there wasn’t high-quality care for their children. I believe that KLC supports women because we understand women.

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?

I believe we rise by lifting others; women should adopt that philosophy across corporate America. I also pride myself on mentoring women about their strengths so that they are focused on building themselves up, instead of focusing on what gets in the way of their advancement. It’s important for us all to build the confidence we need to recognize our potential.

Does KLC offer any professional development programs?

Yes — our organization offers leadership development for all levels in the organization, including our teachers. We are working to launch a strong mentorship program in 2022, and hope to see it come to life through our Employee Resource Groups.

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