Walmart says one of its top priorities is fostering a “culture of inclusion” in its workforce. The language comes directly from its newly released report about its progress on various environmental and social goals, among them creating a diverse workplace where employees feel empowered and have opportunities to grow in their careers. It details efforts such as making sure it includes minority candidates in its pool of potential directors, and holding training sessions on racial equity.
But the picture Walmart offers in its report stands in sharp contrast with the feelings of some of the Black managers at the company, revealed in a recent internal survey reviewed by Bloomberg News. It gauged the experiences of 56 Black supervisors, senior managers, and directors. Many felt they lacked opportunities to advance their careers, and a number would not recommend working at Walmart to friends and family.
Among the reported complaints from employees were inadequate support due to a lack of diversity in the leadership, feelings of having to perform at an exceptional level compared to others, and unequal access to opportunities for career growth. Asked to numerically rank the likelihood they would recommend Walmart as a place to work, the hourly supervisors, who are managers within stores, generally responded with scores indicating they would suggest working at Walmart. But directors, who are just below vice presidents in Walmart’s ranks, and the senior managers reporting to them returned overwhelmingly negative scores.
“I have been here 10 years and I have never recommended Walmart to a person of color. I have recommended others to leave,” a Black director said in the survey, according to Bloomberg. “Pay, benefits, not bad—but recommend? NEVER. EVER.”
A dozen middle managers surveyed who were not Black also reported feeling they weren’t properly trained to deal with sensitive issues regarding race.
Walmart told Bloomberg the survey was early research it was conducting with a limited sample of employees. Developing diverse talent is a top priority for the company, it added, and recognizes it has more to do. Quartz reached out to Walmart for comment and will update this story with any reply.
Walmart’s role in the US workforce
While the survey was small, the results carry weight because of Walmart’s role as the world’s biggest retailer and the largest private-sector employer in much of the US. The company employs some 1.5 million people in the country. Roughly 21% of that US workforce is Black, according to Walmart’s published diversity numbers (pdf), higher than the 14% of Americans who identify as Black and the 12% of US private-sector workers who are Black.
But most of those workers are in hourly jobs. Of Walmart’s management, 11.8% is Black. Among those the company describes as “officers,” 8.4% are Black.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and beyond last year, Walmart—like many other companies—committed to do more to promote racial equity. “Of course, we need to go further in hiring Black and African American associates across all levels and positions,” said a statement last June from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. “And we need to ensure they are remaining with us and growing in their careers.”