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Walmart reports steps for diversity

Female workers a focus of retailer by Serenah McKay | September 25, 2021 at 2:10 a.m.

Walmart Inc. has created several initiatives this year to increase opportunity and equity for women, members of minority groups and people with disabilities, the company said in a report released Friday.

Walmart's midyear Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report covers the first half of its fiscal year, from Feb. 1 through July 31.

Chief People Officer Donna Morris noted in the report that the covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women, especially women of color. As a result, she said, many women are leaving the workforce.

While the problem isn't isolated to Walmart, Morris said, "we'll continue to take active measures toward the pre-covid progress of women in the workplace." Walmart will accomplish this by staying focused "on policies and benefits that support flexibility, wellness and inclusive behaviors," she said.

The company's steps to support women, Morris said, include offering degree options with free tuition and books, supporting family leave and providing stable and predictable scheduling.

Data in the report shows that 34% of Walmart's officers are female, and 9.3% of officers are women of color. Officer positions are defined as those from vice president and up.

Ben Hasan, Walmart's global chief culture, diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said in a blog post accompanying the report's release that despite a decline of women in hourly and management roles, the number of female officers is up 1.1% since Jan. 31.

About 54% of Walmart's female employees in the U.S. are hourly workers, according to the report. About 27% of its U.S. hourly workers are women of color.

In its international operations as of June 30, 56% of nonmanagement roles are held by women and 32% by women of color.

The Bentonville-based retailer employs nearly 1.6 million workers in the U.S. and another 500,000 internationally.

Walmart also said in the report that its formation in May of an Accessibility Center for Excellence showed its strengthened commitment to advancing inclusion for people with disabilities.

The company said the center will assess current policies and procedures companywide so it can develop strategies aimed at increasing digital and physical accessibility for employees and customers.

The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy says about 50 million people in the U.S. are disabled.

"Hiring people with disabilities can positively impact a business' bottom line," according to the office's website.

To attract and retain disabled workers, the Office of Disability Employment Policy suggests steps such as seeking out qualified job candidates with disabilities; adding a disability focus to any diversity training; ensuring that internal professional development programs are available to people with disabilities; and making sure training and other off-site activities are accessible to employees with disabilities.

The Center for Racial Equity continues working with the company's Shared Value Networks to address systemic challenges in the areas of finance, health, education and criminal justice.

Actions taken in these areas this year include adding Spelman College, a historically Black college, to its Live Better University participating institutions. Walmart said it expects to add more historically Black colleges and universities to the program later this year.

The center also collaborated with the Racial Equity Institute, a Black-owned business based in North Carolina, in creating racial bias training for law enforcement, third-party security and Walmart's asset protection workers.

The Center for Racial Equity was formed last year by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. coordinates the retailer's philanthropic initiatives.

While some may wonder how much a company's diversity and inclusion record really matters to customers, Carol Spieckerman, a retail analyst and president of Spieckerman Retail, said these efforts -- and their disclosure in reports -- "provide multi-faceted benefits to Walmart, its associates, and consumers."

"It really is table stakes for any multinational company doing business today," Spieckerman said.

Some current and former Walmart workers say Friday's report doesn't give a complete picture of the company's workforce.

To employee advocate group United for Respect, which includes many current and former Walmart workers, Friday's report is a "fluff piece."

Bianca Agustin, the group's corporate accountability director, said in a statement that Walmart should be more transparent about the roles and positions that people of color hold in the company.

"What you won't see in this report: Tens of thousands of Black and Brown workers employed by Walmart continue to live in poverty," Agustin said. "Representation matters, and so do inflation-adjusted wages and benefits that allow associates of color and their families to thrive."

"Instead of just celebrating diversity on paper, Walmart must take responsibility for the power it has to drastically improve racial equity in this country, as one of the nation's largest private employers," Agustin said.

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