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Yum! In The News

Real Talk: Yum! employees honor Black History Month through celebration, reflection and ACTION

Black History Month February 2020

Published on February 11, 2020

At Yum! Brands, we believe in ALL people. It’s a core value that starts at the top with our leadership – from our CEO-led Leading Inclusion for Today & Tomorrow (LIFT2) Council to our membership in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion coalition. Beyond our committed leadership, Yum!’s belief in all people is infused in the DNA of everything we do at our company, providing employees at all levels the chance to embrace and embody diversity and inclusion in various ways.

Development opportunities such as our unconscious bias training and employee resource groups emphasize our focus on creating an inclusive culture and giving our people the training and education to be their best. In addition, our engagement with programs like the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management highlight our efforts to ensure our next generation of talent reflects the diversity of the people we serve. We continue to make progress in these areas. In fact, just this year, we “upped the ante” by adding diversity and inclusion commitment to everyone’s annual employee evaluation – directly connecting individual performance and diversity and inclusion for the first time.

All of this allows us to cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone can feel a sense of belonging. Each week throughout Black History Month, we’re living our people-first culture by sharing personal insights through Q&A-style interviews from several members of our Yum! Brands family. We hope that you’ll connect, share and celebrate with us.

Happy Black History Month,
James Fripp
Yum! Brands Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer


Check back daily for new stories. Jump to a particular interview by clicking on a name below:


Nigel Benton, Operations Technology Manager, KFC U.S.


What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

To bring my whole, authentic self to work means there is no fear of being judged for my differences of opinion, race, fashion, hair, etc. It’s the ability to be myself as I would with my friends and family, which allows me to be my best self.

When did someone in our company make you feel heard and seen?

When I present in front of my peers and leadership teams, I feel recognized for the work I’ve done because much of being heard and seen is directly correlated to how much one is asked to be heard and seen. And, if no one is asking, then it’s important to speak up for what you want.

What advice would you have for others who are still early in their career?

Find and confide in mentors, sponsors and truth-tellers. They have been through what you will be going through and can provide feedback and perspectives on how to handle situations.



Sindy Mitchell, Service Desk Associate Manager, Pizza Hut U.S.


How does diversity positively impact an organization?

Diversity makes everyone feel included. You want to work at a place where it’s OK to be different and to know your opinion matters. I’ve worked for this company for almost 15 years, and I am proud of how we’ve grown in this area.

What advice would you have for others early in their career?

Don’t be afraid to talk through your challenges with your coworkers because you never know what value those conversations can bring or how they can lead to the solution! Also, understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can continue to build upon both of them. Finally, ALWAYS pay it forward.



Damon Yarber, Service Desk Manager, Taco Bell


When did someone in our company make you feel heard and seen?

The leaders I interact with across the entire Yum! family have consistently made me feel like I am seen and relevant. My perspective is heard and considered like everyone else’s. In fact, leadership encourages me to speak out even if I disagree with them. Their encouragement and engagement have helped me strive for higher investment in my own professional growth.

How does diversity positively impact our organization?

I believe diversity is our secret sauce. When we work collectively, our combined diverse experiences, talents, wisdom and backgrounds become much more representative of the customers we serve.

What’s an easy way people can be more inclusive on a daily basis?

I believe everyone intrinsically has the capability to encourage and engage others. When we exhibit these qualities, we make others feel included and valued, and it allows people’s talents to rise to the surface.   



Austin Morgan, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Product Manager, KFC U.S.


How do you celebrate Black History Month?  

I typically read a book (or two, depending on time) about a black history event. This year’s selection is by Carter G. Woodson and covers the cultural indoctrination of African Americans in 1933, which provided the foundation for the ideology for many civil rights leaders. I chose it because my pastor has been speaking on empowerment, including the American Descendants of Slavery movement, which has really pushed me to start learning my cultural history. Plus, my dad’s side of the family grew up in Alabama, so I was raised hearing history from those who participated in well-known sit-ins and movements. 

How can our company further drive diversity strategies for people of color?

Yum! is taking a step in the right direction by initiating diversity and inclusion goals as part of performance reviews. It’s now up to each and every one of us to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow from each other.

What has helped you get to where you are?

The best thing I have done so far is simply stepping out of my comfort zone and saying yes to challenging experiences. After college, I worked in the poultry industry where simply saying yes led to three different career opportunities that taught fundamental work and technical skills, advancing me to where I am today.

What’s an easy way people can be more inclusive on a daily basis?

Simply say to yourself, “Will my words offend someone?” Sometimes, we do not realize that our daily language can be offensive to others, so learning to stop and think has helped me to change some of my terminology to ensure I am more inclusive.



Alicia Barnett, International Treasury Analyst, Yum! Brands


When did someone in our company make you feel heard and seen?

A coworker of mine visited The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s a meaningful site where people can gather and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality, which is exactly what my colleague did. She took time to have an open, honest dialogue with me about her experience, which showed me that she had compassion for me and a genuine interest in the topic.

History — whether good or bad — belongs to all of us. It’s not just history for one particular race. It’s something that we all need to acknowledge, embrace and learn. Everybody has a story to tell, and the way to make a positive change is through education, commitment and communication.

How can our company further drive diversity strategies?

I continue to encourage people to have bold discussions, whether it’s during our semi-annual development series Grow Yourself Week, engaging in our employee resource group Women In Networking’s Lean-In Circles or bringing in experts to speak on the importance of this topic.

How does diversity positively impact an organization?

I had the pleasure of hearing a chief diversity officer speak at a Women Influencing Louisville conference, and she summed it up best: “Diversity is not about counting people; it’s about making people count.”

If an organization truly wants to perform at its peak, it has to allow people to bring their full selves to work. This will boost confidence, improve performance and increase loyalty. If you’re pleased with your team, have equal opportunities and feel like you matter, you’ll be more inclined to stay.



Brandy Draper, I.T. Data Design Analyst, KFC U.S.

How do you celebrate Black History Month, and what does it mean to you?

It’s a way to celebrate my own heritage. It’s not traditionally taught in our local schools’ core curriculum, so during Black History Month, I try to really lean in and learn something about African Americans in my hometown of Louisville, Ky., or across the country.

What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

It’s security. I feel safe being able to look the way I naturally look and be who I am without assimilating or fearing judgement or insensitive commentary. 

Can you name a time when someone in the company made you feel heard and seen?

I had a conversation with Yum! Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer James Fripp regarding diversity in the workplace. He provided rich insight that all boiled down to making connections. Educating and creating relationships is key, so that the bridge is built and there is understanding. 



LaShunda Lewis, Technical Product Manager, Pizza Hut U.S.


What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

It means being true to who I am holistically — everything from how I grew up to my experience as a daughter, wife and mother. I spent a lot of time in the past putting up walls to protect myself and keeping people from knowing the real me out of fear and shame. I realized that while I thought I was portraying strength, it was really my weakness that was on display. Being vulnerable and genuine is my superpower.

How does diversity positively impact an organization?

Diversity can lead to Yum! Brands coming up with the next big thing as a result of bringing different ideas and experiences together. Diversity of skin color, background, religion and thoughts promotes an environment that breeds creativity and creates space to bring all our learnings to the table. It’s truly the change maker that sets companies apart.

What’s an easy way people can be more inclusive on a daily basis?

The word “inclusion” should inspire us to evaluate ourselves and be aware of our own biases, so that we can be more open to others not like us. By doing that, we can then encounter people in a new and accepting way. It’s not an overnight change, but a lifelong commitment. Self check-ins are one of the biggest ways we can truly make a daily impact.



Kyndall Hinton, Public Relations Associate Analyst, KFC Global


Can you name a time when someone in the company made you feel heard and seen? 

My manager does an awesome job of listening. I remember one time, she just sat down and talked to me. She asked me different questions about my culture and wanted to know what it felt like working here as an African American because she genuinely wanted to know. It was a talk I’ll never forget, because I felt like she was so present and wanted to do whatever she could to make me feel like I could bring my true, authentic self to work every day.

What’s your favorite way our company has been intentional about inclusion and celebrating it on campus?  

We had a diversity panel during our week-long development series Be Your Best Fest last year at the Plano, Texas, campus. The panel had a great representation of every minority, including race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. It was interesting to hear from everyone and understand that many of us struggle with the same things.

What makes you hopeful as an employee about our future with regards to diversity and inclusion?

I am hopeful because we have great leaders who are open-minded. Most importantly, Yum! Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer James Fripp loves people. He’s passionate about getting the voices of minorities heard and is a true advocate on our behalf. If we continue down the path we are on, the future of diversity and inclusion is very bright. 



Brittany Pride, Human Resources Advisor, Pizza Hut International


What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work? 

It means I’m able to just be ME, all versions of myself. I feel like style and hair is a big thing for black women and an even bigger thing when you think of it in the context of work and what it means to be "professional" in the workplace. I love that I can come to work with my natural curls. I can wear afro puffs, I can wear my nose ring, I can wear a head scarf and I don't have to hide my tattoos. This is HUGE to me. I once interviewed an African American female who told me that she was so relieved when she saw me with my natural hair. It's moments like these that remind me why I got into HR in the first place, and it kind of sparks the fire again.

How does diversity positively impact an organization? 

I like to think of diversity like a toolbox. If you have a toolbox with just hammers and nails, that's all you're limited to. You're only going to be able to fix things that require hammers and nails. The problem with this way of thinking is that most problems will require completely different tools other than a hammer and nails. Organizations should have an assortment of tools in order to solve the most diverse and complex problems.

What’s an easy way people can be more inclusive on a daily basis? 

In the U.S., Americans don’t tend to have many friends outside their own race, so try to build meaningful relationships with people who are different from you. I can honestly say that my friend group is very diverse, and I wouldn't want it any other way because they teach me so much and vice versa. When you have close relationships with people from different backgrounds, you develop a type of trust where you can ask those uncomfortable questions that you think to yourself and hope someone raises their hand to ask on your behalf.



Field Staffing and Training Leader, Human Resources, KFC U.S.


How do you celebrate Black History Month?

Growing up, my family and I celebrated Black History Month by focusing on our culture, historians and events. We also supported African American businesses throughout February. As an adult, I still carry on these traditions with my own family.  

What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

It’s not always easy. In the last year, I have grown through a personal development tool called Heartstyles, which has helped me be comfortable in being authentic in different work and personal situations. 

What’s your favorite way our company has been intentional about inclusion and celebrating it on campus?

Diversity and inclusion initiatives have made a positive impact across our organization by just acknowledging and accepting everyone’s differences. Yum! and KFC are showing me that we have the same values, even if we look and act differently from each other. It’s awesome to work at a place that cares and is proving daily that we have strong diversity and inclusion goals.

A great example is KFC’s sponsorship of the Louisville Central Community Center’s annual Trustees of Inclusive Equity (I.E.) Awards Gala. LCCC is a local non-profit that offers programs and services supporting children and families, and its awards gala honors individuals and companies that advance equity and inclusion. 


Ryan Nelson, Senior Associate Manager, Express, Pizza Hut U.S.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month provides an opportunity for me to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made throughout history that have helped pave the way for young black men such as myself. It is a time of gratitude and also a time that serves as a reminder of the work that remains.

Why is it important to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

Working for a company that not only allows, but encourages, me to be my authentic self in the workplace is something I am extremely grateful for. I believe that as our company, and companies everywhere, continue to make huge leaps on the diversity and inclusion front, it is important for people of color to be present in a manner that is truly indicative of who we are as individuals. By being my true self in the office, it will hopefully inspire others to do the same, thus continuing to build on the diversity and inclusion momentum we already have.

What’s your favorite way our company has been intentional about inclusion and celebrating it on campus?

A perfect example is the Inclusive Leadership training led by Yum! Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer James Fripp and his partners. This course is taught at our restaurant support centers around the world and helps us understand unconscious bias and how to correct any blind spots we may not even realize exist.



Kennedra Marshall, Franchise Contract Administrator, Legal, KFC U.S.


How do you celebrate Black History Month?

I typically celebrate by doing a “social media campaign” where I post a black history fact every day to honor the lives of those who came before us. This year, I plan to teach my daughters (ages 5 and 3) about black history, discussing a fact with them each day. We celebrate Kwanzaa in my household, and my kids were very excited about it this past December, so I think these facts will tie right in with what they learned over those seven days.

Can you name a time when someone in our company made you feel heard and seen? 

One of Yum!’s employee resource groups, Yum! UNITE, makes me feel more heard than ever. This group offers a safe place to speak freely about feelings of isolation from the lack of inclusion and has hosted events that have been groundbreaking for me. I feel more comfortable speaking with my current team (even as a newer person) about diversity and inclusion topics than in the past because of Yum! UNITE.

What makes you hopeful as an employee about our future with regards to diversity and inclusion?

Efforts are being made here. Yum! is already a great place to work, so it’s not hard to want to make it even better. People care about one another, and with that, I think conversations about diversity and inclusion are easier to have. 



Erain Stawar, Financial Planning Manager, Pizza Hut International


  • What does it mean to bring your whole, authentic self to work?

    Bringing my whole self to work means that I don’t have to leave any parts of my life at home. It means that I don’t have to fit into a pre-defined model in order to be successful. I can be myself, a mom, a wife, a black woman who wears her natural hair, and still be successful without judgment. Being authentic means being courageous enough to take risks and vulnerable enough to know that I am an imperfect human being, and that we are all doing the best we can with what we have at the moment.

    What’s your favorite way our company has been intentional about inclusion and celebrating it on campus?

    One of my favorite features of the Pizza Hut International culture is that new hires’ desks are adorned with welcome signs with their names prominently displayed over their desks. It is an announcement to the entire floor/area that a new person has joined the team and an encouragement to come say “hello!”

    What has helped you get to where you are, and what advice would you have for others who are still early in their career?

    Three of the key traits that have helped me include:

    Relationships - Building strong relationships has helped me accomplish much more than I could have accomplished on my own.

    Grit & Growth Mindset - Being able to push through when things get tough, refocusing energy on productive pursuits and learning from mishaps

    Curiosity – I’m always looking for and willing to learn new skills to build my current knowledgebase and discover new methods of getting things done.

    For someone early in their career, I would say establish a personal board of directors, take calculated risks and give yourself grace. We only get one chance to live this thing called life, so be sure you make time to enjoy it and spend it with people you love.



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