Walmart Boosts Black Corporate Officers Back Near 2015 Level

Walmart Inc. has increased the ranks of its Black corporate officers in recent months as part of its broader effort to address racial inequities, bringing representation back near where it stood in 2015.

The nation’s biggest private employer said employees who identify as Black now account for 8.4% of corporate officers in the U.S., which includes vice presidents and above. That compares with 6.9% in a report released in the middle of last year, representing a sharp rise for such a massive workforce in a short period of time. That figure had previously been as high as 8.7% in 2015, only to dissipate in the back half of the decade.

The diversity report illustrates Walmart’s progress -- and sometimes lack thereof -- in addressing the absence of Black faces in senior leadership, especially when more than one in five Walmart staffers are African-American. Over the past decade, women -- particularly White women -- have made notable progress advancing up Walmart’s corporate ladder, helped by programs designed specifically for them. The share of women officers in the U.S. expanded to 32.8%, up more than two percentage points from the midyear report.

“There are no simple answers to the questions and challenges we all face,” Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in the report.

Walmart Boosts Black Corporate Officers Back Near 2015 Level

Last year, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the retailer pledged $100 million to create a center on racial equity that promised to “use the power of Walmart” to address systemic racism. McMillon, in announcing the pledge, said the company also needed to “actively shape our culture to be more inclusive” and warned that managers who don’t promote diversity would need to find work elsewhere.

Hiring did get more inclusive at Walmart last year, with people of color comprising 55% of new hires in the U.S. Black workers made up 28.1% of new hires, a slight uptick from the midyear report.

It takes a lot to move the needle inside Walmart’s 1.6 million-person U.S. workforce, which is 21% Black overall. Walmart has appointed Black executives to some high-profile roles recently, such as Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of health and wellness.

But the company has also lost some high-ranking Black executives. Monique Picou, a former senior vice president overseeing strategy and supply chain at its Sam’s Club warehouse unit, left for Google earlier this year. Other former senior leaders who are Black are now in top roles at organizations like Starbucks Corp., Lowe’s Cos. and the American Red Cross.

Walmart is taking steps to improve. The company now reports on ethnic and gender diversity twice a year and is reviewing its hiring, development and rewards practices. For example, all openings at the vice president level and below are now posted internally first. Walmart has also teamed with consultant McKinsey & Co. to write a report that examines factors that impact career opportunities for Black Americans.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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