For years, Walmart has advocated the need for companies to diversify their workforce and to invest more in equal opportunity programs that promote racial equity.
Proving it’s a company that not only talks the talk but walks the walk, Walmart founded the Center for Racial Equity, an organization that will receive US$100 million for a period of five years from the Walmart Foundation.
However, the results of a survey conducted by Walmart with its Black directors, supervisors, and mid-level managers who use the companies walmartone service for their employee information appear to indicate that the company still has its work to promote racial equality in the workplace cut out for them.
56 top-level managers and executives of African-American descent participated in the survey. Bloomberg, which saw the survey results published a report that the majority of respondents would not recommend Walmart as a place of employment.
Reasons cited by the respondents
- Barriers to career advancement
- Insufficient growth opportunities
- Prevalence of internal politics and favoritism
Some of the respondents fired vitriol at Walmart. One senior manager who had been employed at Walmart for more than a decade claimed that despite his tenure, he never discussed or offered any of the company’s job openings to other Black people.
Another management level participant clarified that while compensation was good, he would still not propose Walmart as a career opportunity to the Black community.
When asked by the media to comment on the survey, Walmart issued a statement describing the survey simply as part of the company’s research process that was still in its early stages.
The results of the survey were discussed with the directors and senior officers of Walmart last year.
Statement from Walmart
The statement from Walmart reiterated the company’s commitment in its efforts to raise awareness about racial inequality and to continue its pursuit of diversifying the workforce by selecting, training, and developing top-level talent from the African-American community.
Walmart acknowledged that improvements in its current programs need to be made but nonetheless, the company is satisfied with its progress moving forward.
In addition to the founding of the Center for Racial Equity, Walmart also rolled out the following initiatives:
- Publish bi-annual reports about diversity and inclusion
- Create mentorship programs for all employees
- Established special focus groups that discussed issues on education, health, as well as the criminal justice system
These special focus groups or shared-value groups are authorized to submit recommendations to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.
Coincidentally, one of these company focus groups commissioned the distribution of the internal workplace survey.
George Floyd Influence
The catalyst for workplace change has been attributed to the death of George Floyd that triggered nationwide protests. Floyd died while under the custody of the Minneapolis police last 25 May 2020, Memorial Day.
Walmart is not alone in improving its programs on diversity and inclusion. Other companies that have ramped up their efforts include General Motors, Invitae, Salesforce, Slack, Asana, Ring Central, and Citigroup.
The underwhelming results of the survey were considered significant because Walmart is America’s biggest employer with more than 1.5 million employees.
It’s estimated that African-Americans account for 21% of Walmart’s workforce which is much higher than the nationwide average of 13.4% for Blacks in American corporations.
Meanwhile, the 2020 Equity and Inclusion Report of Walmart showed that the company’s management and officer levels were composed of 12% and 8% Blacks.
The report downplayed criticism that its initiatives barely moved the needle. Walmart claims that its programs contributed to an increase of almost 2% in the number of Black managers and officers because it had likewise, increased the number of Blacks employed by 0.61% from the previous year.