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Bloomberg has a piece in which it observes that Walmart's efforts to diversify its leadership ranks with more women have had "a major unintended consequence - a setback for Black representation."

According to the story, "Walmart’s focus on women — spurred by a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit — left Black men and women on the outside looking in, according to a half-dozen African-American former associates who worked at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. These people, who requested anonymity as some still live there and all fear retribution for criticizing the nation’s largest employer, depicted an environment where promising Black staffers repeatedly failed to break into the company’s officer ranks, while White women gained, buttressed by a strong career-development network."

Bloomberg makes the point that Walmart is not alone in this - a shortage or total lack of Black faces in leadership ranks can be seen at retailers that include Costco, Best Buy, and Target.  "What happened inside Walmart offers a lesson for other companies trying to diversify their management ranks. As the nation’s biggest private employer, Walmart sets a standard with its workforce policies that other big employers typically follow. The retailer also has held itself up as a leader this year by making one of the largest corporate commitments to battling racial inequality, with a $100 million pledge."

Bloomberg goes on:

"Walmart’s Chief People Officer Donna Morris denies that the gains made by women came at the expense of Black staffers, but acknowledged that the company’s efforts to identify and promote talented minorities needs to improve. A few have risen recently, like Dacona Smith, now COO of the U.S. business.

"But many of Walmart’s promising Black leaders have left to lead other organizations: Roz Brewer, who once ran the company’s Sam’s Club warehouse division, is now the chief operating officer of Starbucks Corp. and sits on the board of Walmart arch-rival Inc. Don Frieson, a logistics expert and onetime COO of Sam’s Club, now oversees the supply chain for home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, a former executive vice president and treasurer, now leads the nation’s biggest food bank. Jeffrey Davis, once the chief financial officer of the U.S. business, left to be the finance chief of Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants Inc. before returning to the retail sector. Phyllis Harris, Walmart’s former head of legal operations, is now the top lawyer for the American Red Cross."

KC's View:

The shame of this is that many companies only move when forced to by litigation - that clearly is what happened at Walmart.

It seems inevitable that the moment we are having right now, with Black people in this country demanding that they be afforded the same levels of opportunity and justice that the rest of us take for granted, is going to encapsulate the retail world.  Businesses that do not measure up, that seem content to take Black people's money without proving the same opportunities in terms of employment and investment, may find themselves targeted through boycotts and litigation.

Which is not a place right now where they want to be.