By Jonathan Roeder and Brendan Case
Walmart Inc.’s management promotions of Black and African-American employees slipped last year, according to the retailer’s latest report on its diversity goals.
Total management promotions for the group fell to 12.8% of the total in the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, Walmart said June 9. That’s down from 13.5% in a midyear update in September and 14.1% in the company’s annual diversity report a year ago. But the latest report showed an increase in the rate at which Walmart promoted Black workers from hourly roles into management.
The results suggest expanding opportunity for Black workers in the rank and file, followed by challenges as they try to move higher up the corporate ladder. In total, the workforce at the largest private-sector employer in the US became more diverse over the year, with White employees representing almost 51% of the total, down about 2 percentage points from a year earlier.
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Companies across the country bolstered their commitments to improving representation for minorities and women after the widespread 2020 protests about racial inequality that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Two years later, however, progress has been uneven. People of color remain under-represented in top leadership roles, particularly with regard to Hispanic executives, and pay gaps have stubbornly persisted.
In some cases, conservative groups have begun pushing back at diversity initiatives. A California law setting boardroom diversity quotas has been overturned, although most companies had complied with its requirements before its reversal.
Investors’ interest in diversity and governance issues seems to be holding strong, however. A record number of initiatives on racial justice, gender equality and gun violence have been on the agenda at shareholder meetings this year. McDonald’s Corp., Apple Inc. and at least a half-dozen other companies have been asked to conduct racial audits.
At Walmart, management promotions also edged down for Latino employees and women over the last year. Still, women accounted for almost 34% of US officers in the latest fiscal year, up 2 percentage points from a year earlier. Promotions for Asian workers rose, while new hires of women and most minority groups inched up.
Chief People Officer Donna Morris and Ben Hasan, Walmart’s global head of diversity and inclusion, said the company’s commitment is “unwavering.”
“We won’t let perfect get in the way of progress and will remain steadfast in our focus that small actions, over time, have lasting impact,” the executives said in a memo to employees.
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