Sparking a Movement Toward a Culture of Inclusion

By Ben Hasan
September 14, 2016
Associate celebrating at the Pride parade

The question gets asked from time to time: What was the thinking at Walmart when an information technology guy was chosen to lead diversity and inclusion? I was wondering the same thing when I was approached about taking this job a little more than a year ago.

I’m a technologist and a business person – I’ve spent most of my 30-plus year career in IT – and I was enjoying leading teams in Walmart Technology. On the surface, diversity and inclusion always seemed to have more to do with the kind of social justice work my brother William does in inner-city Philadelphia than with business and technology.

The truth is, diversity and inclusion has everything to do with running a good business, and when I talked with one of my most trusted advisers – my wife – prior to taking this job, she helped me realize I’ve been practicing D&I most of my career. I’ve always had a passion for lifting up and developing people, and when I thought back upon my work, the organizations and projects that have been the most successful have been the ones where everyone felt included.
That concept of “everyone included” has taken hold as our vision for Walmart’s approach in this area. It’s how we need to do business to grow our business. The retail landscape is evolving rapidly, and we must be innovative and agile to meet the changing wants and needs of our customers. In order to innovate, you must differentiate, and in order to differentiate you must surround yourself with people with unique styles, experiences, identities, ideas and opinions. Inclusive leaders are needed to make it all work.

That’s diversity. Inclusion is when you create the kind of culture where people feel welcome, comfortable and safe in bringing their authentic self to work each day, and are engaged and empowered by their leaders to be high performers. For example, the present and future Walmart is the convergence of physical and digital retail in a way that surprises and delights busy customers, and making that a reality at scale will take equal parts store operators and technologists working together with a common purpose.

That’s the essence of our mission– to create an inclusive culture where all associates work together to deliver on our shared purpose of saving people money so they can live better.

We’ve been working the past several months on developing and introducing an integrated culture, diversity and inclusion strategy, and today we’re releasing an update on our progress in our 2016 Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Report . The report includes messages from our leadership and key stats about our workforce, along with stories from associates around the globe about the opportunities that exist at Walmart. This past year, we saw an increase in the percentage of our U.S. management team that is comprised of either people of color or women, with the rate of people of color up to 31% from 30% and women moving from 42% to 43%.

The answer to why Walmart chose an IT guy to lead diversity and inclusion is simple – if we’re going to create a culture of “everyone included,” it’s going to take … everyone. Our movement could’ve started with anyone – a merchant, a marketer or an accountant – it just happened to start with an old-school technologist like me.