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Inclusion in Practice: Celebrating Juneteenth, Nurturing Connections

Inclusion in Practice: Celebrating Juneteenth, Nurturing Connections

Published 06-19-23

Submitted by Principal Financial Group, Inc.

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Originally published on

When McKenzie Kerry graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a leadership position in a financial services company was very much on her mind. A business management major, Kerry had long sought out extra opportunities and activities, such as DECA, a leadership prep group for high schoolers and college students. “It was my thing in high school. I competed for three years and was president,” Kerry says. “I knew when I graduated, I wanted to find a leadership development program.”

Lots of familiar corporate names entered the post-college job search in her hometown of Charlotte. Then she happened upon a LinkedIn job posting for Principal Financial Group®. “I had never heard of Principal,” Kerry says. “But I did some research and liked what I saw.”

That feeling, along with insights from key people along the way, helped Kerry navigate the Principal® interview, job offer, and eventual relocation halfway across the country to Des Moines. “There was a connection I felt with people I had already met, and the culture felt different,” she says. “I knew I didn’t want to miss out on it.”

As Principal has discovered, nurturing those connections helps support diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, not just in communities and with customers, but also with employees. Those connections are multifaceted: support for Black-owned businesses, measurement of leadership representation, and celebrations old and new, such as the designation of Juneteenth as a Principal holiday.

DEI: From global to local

DEI isn’t a goal with an end point: It’s always on. Principal is continuing the work to increase diversity while making strides in areas such as gender. For example, women first received a seat on the board at Principal in 1980, and a Black woman joined the board two decades ago. Today, 46% of the management team are women.

At Principal, inclusion translates into a work environment that’s:

  • based on integrity, respect, trust, and belonging,
  • attracts and retains diverse talent, increases employee engagement, and develops the next generation of leaders, and
  • is flexible so employees can integrate life and work.

Lofty goals indeed, but how do we know we’re making progress? Measurements can help.

  • Inclusion: The Global People 2022 inclusion index, a measurement of authenticity and feeling valued among other factors, of 82% exceeds the goal of 80%.
  • Leadership: 62% of Board of Director members are diverse in their gender, race, or national origin.
  • Business support: In 2021, Principal committed to doubling the diverse small and midsize businesses it supports by 2025. In just its second year, we met 68% of the stated goal.
  • Global employment: Currently, women make up 54% of the Principal global workforce; 16% in the United States are people of color.
  • Outside recognitions: Principal was recognized as best place to work for LGBTQ+ Equality on the 2022 Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Commission Foundation.

Those high-level initiatives become actionable in a variety of ways, including engaging employees through employee resource groups. Internally, the Principal African American/Black employee resource group (AABERG) hosted a virtual discussion reflecting on the history of Juneteenth and sharing practical steps to commemorate the meaning of the day.

The origin of Juneteenth

When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863,1 the Southern states still under control of successionists scoffed.

Over the next two years, state by state, however, Union forces had an opportunity to put force behind law— except in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that enslaved people in Texas would learn that they too, had gained their freedom.2

Since 1979, Texas has celebrated the anniversary of that momentous day as Juneteenth. In 2021, it became a federal holiday. That same year, Principal marked Juneteenth as an official corporate holiday, and to celebrate the occasion, the Juneteenth flag flew above the headquarters in Des Moines as employees and community members commemorated the day together.

Principal® Foundation also funds a number of external initiatives such a grant to the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, which helps entrepreneurs and small business owners improve personal finances, and 1863 Ventures, a national business development non-profit for entrepreneurs that have been historically marginalized.

Nationally, Black individuals3 and specifically Black women4 are becoming first-time entrepreneurs and business owners at one of the fastest rates in the country. Buying from these businesses on, before, and after Juneteenth helps.

Dannie Patrick, another transplant to Des Moines and global inclusion specialist, has volunteered at a past local Juneteenth event. “At Principal, we know that simply observing Juneteenth as a holiday is not enough for our employees. They want to be involved and actively volunteer to make an impact within the communities we serve,” Patrick says.

“Volunteering at Juneteenth Neighbor's Day is so important to me because it gives me and others the opportunity to see ourselves reflected back in the mirror, which happens less frequently here in Iowa," Patrick says. “It's empowering and helps me keep going. Having an employer that acknowledges and supports that is why I am proud to say I'm a Principal employee.”

Candid conversations for a more inclusive future

During Kerry’s formal interviews, “the tone was much different than other companies—very conversational and friendly,” Kerry says. “Everyone gave me the impression they wanted what was best for me. Principal did a great job during the process of making sure I was interviewed by people of color who work here, so we were able to talk about diversity and leadership.”

Kerry started in April 2021 as a leadership development program associate. The early career program rotates associates in months-long assignments across Principal, helping them develop skills for an eventual placement as a leader with direct reports. Kerry relocated to Des Moines in September 2021, leaving behind family and her hometown. There have been challenges. There have been connections. There is still more work to be done.

Fellow employees have helped her acclimate to Des Moines—hard in any situation, harder still when moving to a state that isn’t as diverse as the community you’ve left behind. “It’s taken adjusting, but there are great things this time in my life has to offer,” Kerry says.

That includes competing in Miss Iowa and placing third; Kerry had never competed in a pageant before. It’s also taking advantage of the doors that the leadership development program opens—and working to open more doors for others. “I’ve had people advocate for me, and I want that for everyone,” Kerry says. “Hopefully some of the candid conversations we’ve had can make sure that we can continue to increase and then keep diversity in Iowa.”

Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc. ("Principal® Foundation") is a duly recognized 501(c)(3) entity focused on providing philanthropic support to programs that build financial security in the communities where Principal Financial Group, Inc. ("Principal") operates. While Principal Foundation receives funding from Principal, Principal Foundation is a distinct, independent, charitable entity. Principal Foundation does not practice any form of investment advisory services and is not authorized to do so. © 2023 Principal Foundation.


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2UC Denver


4USA Facts

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Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group, Inc.

Principal Financial Group® (Nasdaq: PFG) is a global financial company with 18,500 employees1 passionate about improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, we’re helping more than 51 million customers1 plan, protect, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where we do business, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Principal® is proud to be recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies2, a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and a Top 10 “Best Places to Work in Money Management3.” Learn more about Principal and our commitment to building a better future at

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