A successful diversity initiative led to an unintended consequence at Walmart
A Bloomberg article on Walmart tells the story of an unintended consequence that arose as a result of the retailer’s commitment to greater gender diversity.
Walmart, in 2009, faced a glaring disparity between the percentage of women it had in leadership positions compared to the female representation of its total workforce, according to Bloomberg. Twenty-seven percent of senior roles were filled by women, while half of its overall employees were female.
The retailer made a concerted effort to bring more women into leadership positions at the store and corporate levels. Women now represent 45.71 percent of Walmart’s management and 30.59 percent of its officer positions, according to the retailer’s 2021 fiscal midyear “Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Report.”
One unintended consequence of Walmart’s push, according to Bloomberg, was that the percentage of Blacks in leadership roles has declined in recent years. Today, 20.69 percent of the company’s workforce is Black, with 11.64 percent in management and 6.85 percent in officer roles.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis earlier this year opened the eyes of many Americans to racial inequality in the U.S., and Walmart was among the corporate citizens to respond. The retailer and its non-profit Walmart Foundation pledged in June to provide $100 million over five years to the Center on Racial Equality. The organization will use the funds to conduct research, advocacy and other efforts to support groups serving Black communities. The Center will also provide counsel to Walmart about ways it can better understand racial bias and structural racism within the U.S.
Walmart is not the only major chain that has pledged itself to greater racial diversity in response to nationwide protests in cities and towns that call for an end to discrimination and abuses of power by law enforcement. Gap, Target and others have made public commitments to promote racial diversity. Others, such as Sephora, have pledged to carry more products from Black-owned businesses.
A Pew survey released last week found that 55 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement, with 29 percent supporting it strongly. These figures are down from a few months ago as President Trump and conservative media outlets have tried to portray violence and looting as widespread. Ninety-three percent of BLM protests over the summer were peaceful, according to the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
- Walmart Took Its Eye Off Black Managers While Women Advanced – Bloomberg
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – Walmart
- What is Walmart doing to promote a diverse workplace? – Walmart
- Will diversity pledges be followed by results? – RetailWire
- Target touts diversity gains, pledges to hire more Black employees – RetailWire
- Sephora commits 15 percent of its shelf space to black-owned brands – RetailWire
- Support for Black Lives Matter has decreased since June but remains strong among Black Americans – Pew Research Center
- Over 90 percent of protests were peaceful, report shows – The Hill
- What white people need to know – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can large retail organizations achieve diversity objectives without unintended negative consequences? Do you think there is a link between reaching gender and racial goals and achieving greater diversity of thought within businesses?