- KFC has appointed John Mays, a franchise business coach who first joined the company as manager of restaurant strategies in 2015, as its first director of equity and inclusion.
- Mays will lead the development and implementation of KFC’s equity and inclusion strategy and efforts across all stakeholders, including its company-owned and franchise locations, as well as the company’s headquarters.
- In addition to creating the new role, Forbes reported that KFC pledged $1 million this year toward national justice initiatives, and in June, its parent company Yum! Brands announced a $100 million, five-year effort to tackle inequality and invest in education and entrepreneurship.
Less than two weeks ago, Pizza Hut, also owned by Yum Brands tapped Chequan Lewis as its first chief equity officer. Lewis and Mays mark part of a broader strategy by the company to signal its seriousness on the issues of equity and diversity, evident in its $100 million pledge announced in June.
The pledge includes a commitment to improve representation of Black, Latinx and people of color, implementing its “Unlocking Opportunity Initiative” across its franchises, continuing its provision of inclusive and anti-racism training, and investing in education, entrepreneurship and social justice in cities where its corporate offices are located. Yum also signed the Hispanic Promise Pledge to hire, empower and promote Hispanic employees, last year, and said it aims to achieve gender parity in its leadership by 2030.
Hiring of diversity and inclusion officers has been slowly on the rise across businesses in general, growing 113% in the last five years. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement among a majority of Americans have sparked an uptick in interest for the role in corporate offices. This month, Bloomin’ Brands appointed a new group vice president of diversity and inclusion and Yum expanded chief D&I officer James Fripp’s role to chief equity and inclusion officer.
Such appointments have often previously been part of public relations efforts to improve a company’s record on diversity following a scandal. Papa John’s introduced its chief of diversity, equity and inclusion in the fallout of its CEO and founder John Schnatter’s use of a racist term. Starbucks brought on Nzinga Shaw as its first global chief inclusion and diversity officer in November as part of its response to a controversy over a Starbucks employee calling the police on two Black men.
The hiring of an equity officer is not adequate, Nicole Sanchez, a diversity and inclusion consultant at Vaya Consulting, told the Washington Post. It also requires that the position be granted enough authority and funding to act meaningfully toward their goals.
Yum's decision to bring on Mays and Lewis are not in direct response to a particular PR scandal, but rather an effort to proactively improve the company’s perception and record on diversity, in light of a new public reckoning on racial injustice. Mays told Forbes, “now more than ever, it’s important for companies to take an internal look at who they are in the space of racial equity and justice,” and he indicated that he would focus on formalizing KFC’s commitments and working to be a leader in the equity and inclusion space.
Mays, who is heavily involved in Louisville's nonprofit industry, is currently vice president of Master Builders Academy, which encourages entrepreneurship and financial management for business among Louisville's Black community.