Women Driving Change: A Brief History of Inclusion at Walmart
“We’re all working together. That’s the secret.”
—Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart
Respect for the Individual
Of the four core values that comprise the foundation of Walmart culture, “Respect for the Individual” forms the bedrock for the company’s belief in and support of diversity, inclusion, and women’s empowerment. These principles are visible in Walmart stores, offices, distribution centers, on the road—everywhere Walmart serves its customers.
A Reflection of the Communities Walmart Serves
A microcosm of the communities in which it saves people money so they can live better, Walmart offers employment opportunities to the widest spectrum of candidates possible. Walmart customers are reflected in the associates that serve them. Walmart stores are prime examples of diversity in customers’ towns and cities across the globe.
“Our commitment to diversity is our commitment to our customers: to treat them fairly and respectfully, to be their advocates, to be sensitive to their causes, to serve them better than our competitors serve them.”
—David Glass, former President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 1988-2000
In the Beginning: Helen Walton
From the start, Sam Walton’s wife Helen – the “First Lady of Walmart” – was a vital source of encouragement as she led the way for women to be recognized and included more and more within the ranks of Walmart management. It was back in 1975 that Helen urged Sam to bring a woman into store management; Merle King was then promoted to become the first female assistant manager in the company’s history.
“We will continue to build a diverse and inclusive company that allows all associates – regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, or other characteristics – to bring their whole selves to work, so they can contribute at their best.”
—Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2014 –Present
Walmart advances the causes of diversity and inclusion for all associates, and, in so doing, serves as a role model throughout the business world when it comes to the upward mobility of women and every class of minority.
One of the primary channels for promoting diversity and inclusion are Walmart’s seven associate resource groups (ARGs). ARGs increase cultural awareness and create a greater sense of community among diverse associates through programs, events, and mentoring. For example, the Women’s Resource Council, one of these ARGs, sponsors Pay It Forward Mentoring Circles, where women form small groups designed for sharing ideas and practices that will help them advance their careers.
“Inclusion is critical to our success. It will help us maximize our business, but at the same time, it makes us better as a company.”
—Rosalind Brewer, former President and CEO of Sam’s Club, 2012–2016
A Global Imperative
Walmart’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and women’s empowerment is global. Launched in September 2011, its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative leverages the company’s size and scale to source products from women-owned businesses (WOBs), train more than one million women around the world, and help increase women’s economic mobility.
Raising awareness for the importance of sourcing from WOBs remains a goal for the company. In March of 2017, Walmart announced it would be one of nine major corporations joining in a unified front to track and report sourcing from self-identified and certified WOBs over the next five years.
Supporting Supplier Diversity
At Walmart, supplier diversity means delivering better products and a broader selection to the communities served by each store. Through supplier diversity’s effort, Walmart is able to increase sourcing from businesses owned by people of diverse backgrounds, including minorities, women, people with disabilities, and veterans.
The most recent tracking shows that Walmart spent $14.7 Billion with diverse suppliers through our direct and indirect purchasing relationships, including $4.4 Billion with women-owned businesses.
Women Leading Walmart
“The foundation of our company is strong. We have dedicated, talented, and creative people, and we have the resources to become even stronger.”
—Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2014-Present
The Women of Walmart’s Workforce
In the U.S., women now represent 55% of our total workforce. Over the past decade, great strides have been made in diversifying not only the makeup of our workforce but also that of our corporate leaders. Women currently comprise 31% of Walmart’s corporate officers, which is higher than the S&P 500 average of 25%. Walmart also outpaces the reported S&P 500 average for the number of females serving on its board of directors. And the company is poised to continue increasing these numbers at all levels.
The women featured here have had key parts to play in the advancement of opportunities for women at Walmart. They represent role models who embody “Respect for All.” This is by no means a complete and exhaustive list; Walmart is full of unsung heroes that have championed equality and thousands who continue to do so every day.