Editor's note: A previous version of this story and headline incorrectly stated that Walmart had not recently hired any people of color to fill executive management roles or board of director vacancies. Walmart has, in fact, hired several people of color for those roles in recent months. A previous version of this story also incorrectly stated that Dacona Smith was the most recent executive African American to join Walmart's executive leadership team. In fact, at least two African-American officers, including John Wigneswaran and Jennifer R. Jackson, were hired more recently. The story and headline have been corrected and updated with additional context.
People of color made up more than 55% of new hires at Walmart between February and July of this year and now occupy more than 25% of the retailer's officer positions, according to the company's website and its latest diversity, equity and inclusion report released Friday.
That includes at least two African-American officers who joined the company this summer, the company confirmed on Saturday. Chief medical officer Dr. John Wigneswaran in July became one of the latest Black senior or executive level manager to be hired by Walmart.
In June, Walmart also hired Capitol One Canada president Jennifer R. Jackson who became Walmart's newest senior vice president of enterprise strategy, mergers & acquisitions, and strategic partnerships. In November, Walmart hired Dr. Cheryl Pegus, to serve as executive vice president of health & wellness.
Walmart says it has worked harder in recent years to increase diversity at its highest ranks. The company's president and CEO Doug McMillon took on the issue of racial inequality during one of Walmart's virtual employee meetings in the wake of George Floyd's murder more than a year ago.
"The murder of George Floyd is tragic, painful, and unacceptable," McMillon told Walmart's global employee population in June 2020. "Words and feelings matter, but they are not enough. More action is required. We will find new ways to accelerate the desired changes inside our company and we will also find the ways that our business can influence real change in our country."
Walmart is America's largest private employer by far, with more than 2 million employees on its global payroll, 1.5 million of them in the United States alone, according to the company's latest diversity, equity and inclusion report. Amazon is a distant second, with 798,000 employees as recently as 2019, according to Fortune.
McMillon said in June 2020 that roughly 340,000 of Walmart's employees are Black. The company's latest report confirms that as recently as July, more than 20% of its employees were Black. African Americans also make up the largest non-White employee segment of Walmart's workforce despite comprising just 11.9% of the US population in 2020, according to the latest US Census.
Around 9% of Walmart's corporate officers are African American, the company's latest demographic data confirms, but Walmart says that's about a 2.3% increase from this time last year.
"While we are encouraged by the growth of our Black and African-American representation across our leadership team, we recognize that we are on a journey and have more work to do," Walmart spokesperson Jami Lamontagne told CNN Business on Saturday.
Black members of Walmart's executive leadership team also include executive vice president of neighborhood markets Kelvin L. Buncum, senior vice president and chief global culture, diversity, equity & inclusion officer Ben Hasan and Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Walmart US.
Latinos make up nearly 18% of Walmart's employee population, but just 5.5% of the company's officers, according to the report. Asian people, who represent more than 4% of the retailer's employees, comprise more than 10% of its managers and 9% of its officers. In August, Anshu Bhardwaj was promoted to senior vice president of technology strategy & commercialization on Walmart's global tech team.
White people make up more than 53% of Walmart's workforce, and they represent more than 63% of its managers and 74% of its officers.
The DEI report also says people of color make up more than 46% of Walmart's workforce, but the company's website shows Black and Brown Americans comprise only about 16.7% of Walmart's 12-member board of directors.
Retired AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stevenson, who is White, joined Walmart's board of directors in March. He's the only director on Walmart's board appointed since the police murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, which motivated Walmart's leaders to create a $100 million center on racial equity program less than two weeks later.
AT&T is the parent company of WarnerMedia, which owns CNN.
NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde is the only Latin American on Walmart's board of directors. He and Morgan Stanley Vice Chair of Wealth Management Carla A. Lewis, who is Black, are the only people of color on Walmart's board.
People of color saw a slight uptick in promotions from hourly employees to management positions, which increased more than two percentage points between January and July, according to Walmart's 2020 end-of-year DEI report.
Last October, the Executive Leadership Council, a nonprofit that works to increase the number of black executives in Corporate America, gave Walmart its 2020 Corporate Award honoring "companies that value and reward contributions, talents, and leadership of Black employees."
In its most recent DEI report, Walmart pointed out marginal gains women have made at the officer level, as well as the May launch of its Accessibility Center of Excellence, which is designed to advance equity and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Walmart also was one of 24 companies that commissioned global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to research challenges Black Americans face in the private sector.
"It further reinforces the importance of addressing these complex systemic issues through our internal people processes," Walmart executive vice president and chief people officer Donna Morris said in the report.
The study determined "educational attainment has an outsized impact" on the employment gap facing African Americans. Walmart announced that it would cover 100% of its workers' college tuition about six months after the McKinsey study was published.
"Although we have made progress, we still have more work to do," the company told CNN Business Friday via email.
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