Actor and rapper Will Smith served as emcee of the Walmart shareholder’s meeting.
The Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys were two of several top musical acts that performed at the shareholders’ meeting.
Walmart's annual shareholders’ meeting brings together Walmart managers and employees from across the globe. Pictured here are employees from Japan.
Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer of Walmart

1. Why is diversity an imperative for Walmart and how do you define diversity?

Considering the changing demographics here in the U.S. and with our continued growth in international markets, being diverse and inclusive in today’s global economy is more than a concept and a good practice – it’s a central component of our long-term business success. That is why our diversity and inclusion purpose supports our company’s effort to sustain business growth, not only for tomorrow, but in the coming decades.

We believe that by embracing different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives,  our associates grow and our customers benefit. Inclusion builds on that foundation by engaging and leveraging the unique strengths of every associate. When our associates are connected and engaged, we position ourselves to be more innovative, and to better understand and serve our customers and communities.

2. What are Walmart’s diversity goals domestically and what are you specifically doing to make major strides in this area?

To support our business objectives, we center our efforts on four focus areas under two strategic pillars – diversity in our workforce and inclusion in our workplace. We are committed to:

  • Building a global diverse talent pipeline to attract the best and brightest talent;
  • Cultivating diversity of thought to leverage unique perspectives and achieve the best business solutions;
  • Inviting and connecting everyone to nurture a strong culture of inclusiveness; and
  • Offering our associates career and developmental opportunities to leverage their full potential.

3. What metrics does Walmart use to measure success in diversity domestically and internationally?

When we talk about metrics in relation to diversity and inclusion, we start with the question, “What does success look like?” For us, our success indicators are innovative breakthroughs and high performing teams. We measure these indicators in a number of ways, using for example: workforce demographics, our associate opinion survey, associate feedback through our intranet site and Town Hall meetings, and through hiring and retention rates. We are currently expanding these measures to include an inclusion survey and interactive learning programs to help associates develop a greater understanding of the value of diverse perspectives, and to increase cultural competencies across every level of our organization.

One example is our Diversity Goals program, which holds specific leadership positions accountable to meet specific diversity and inclusion goals. More than 55,000 managers in our U.S. operations are accountable for meeting diversity goals.

4. What are the positives and challenges you face in running diversity for Walmart both domestically and internationally? How do the domestic and international issues compare and contrast?

Our diversity and inclusion strategy and initiatives are designed to encourage high level engagement, maintain an inclusive culture, and cultivate diversity of thought to drive innovative business solutions. Focusing on these measures increases the level of trust throughout our organization, which in turn sustains our business growth.

With 2.1 million associates worldwide, we have the benefit of the rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that our associates share with us. Being a large company also has its challenges. Some of the questions we continually ask ourselves are:

  • What are the best ways to connect our associates across our different business units and countries, so that everyone understands both our mission to save people money so they can live better, and our culture of respect and inclusion;
  • What are the best ways that we can empower individuals in every global market to address the diversity and inclusion issues that are most relevant to different countries and cultures. We recognize that a “one-size-fits-all” model isn’t the answer.

5. In your opinion, which Fortune 500 companies stand out for their leadership in diversity?  What makes those corporations’ approach to diversity most impressive to you?

I am most impressed with companies that seem to be taking the principles of diversity and inclusion to an even greater level of impact. Sodexo, for example, is exemplary in its leadership commitment to accountability and metrics, and in extending that commitment outside of the company to cultivate a diverse network of suppliers. Deloitte integrates diversity and inclusion practices into the company’s business plan through succession planning, talent acquisition and leadership development. I appreciate what appears to be a high level of engagement within the company’s employee resource groups, particularly in the areas of recruitment and diversity training.

There are a number of other companies that appear to be doing incredible things in diversity and inclusion. We regularly share best practices with companies such as McDonald’s, General Mills, Coca Cola and PepsiCo. In fact, Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, will speak with our associates in July about the importance of diversity and developing a global mindset. We are honored that she is taking time from her busy schedule to visit us. I personally cannot wait to talk with her about her own journey, and how PepsiCo empowers its employees within the framework of their own guiding principles to sustain business growth.

Personal Background

5. Tell us about your life personally.  Where were you born, raised and what did you study?

I was born in Pasadena, California and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I graduated from the University of Denver magna cum laude with a double major in Political Science and Speech Communication.

6. Tell us about your career’s trajectory and what led you to come to the role you now have with Walmart?

After college, I spent 17 years with Foot Locker in field operations and Human Resources, then went on to almost three years at Sports Authority as Vice President of H.R. I joined Walmart in 2003 as Vice President of H.R. for Sam’s Club and was later promoted to Senior Vice President of H.R. for Sam’s Club. I came into my new role in January 2011, as Global Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President of Corporate Human Resources.

7. Who were your childhood heroes and what did they teach you?

My childhood heroes included Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King, Jr. As an adult, my heroes are Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Their examples have taught me the importance of speaking out and standing up for what I believe in.

8. Tell us something that would surprise most people who know you?

My childhood home in Colorado Springs is now a public education center on environmental sustainability. It is known as the Catamount Institute, Beidleman Environmental Center at Sondermann Park.

Disclosure: Manny Ruiz, publisher of Hispanic PR Blog, was invited (expenses paid) by Walmart to attend the annual shareholders’ meeting.

7 thoughts on “Interview With Sharon Orlopp, Walmart’s Global Chief Diversity Officer & Highlights from Shareholders Meeting”
  1. I guess I’m suffering from some cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, this Chief Diversity Officer says all the right things about diversity. On the other hand, a whole bunch of civil rights lawyers and advocacy groups whom I respect greatly have made a powerful case that women as a class are being discriminated against in promotions, pay, and opportunities in this same corporation. (The US Supreme Court recently only tossed out the ability of the plaintiffs to bring a giant class action suit, and did not rule on the merits.) So who’s to be believed? It may be that Wal-Mart is so big that all things about it are true.

    It would be very interesting (and difficult!) to try to reconcile the two opposed views through multi-party, multi-issue alternative dispute resolution. Unfortunately, the civil rights groups are attacking strongly and Wal-Mart is defending strongly. The discrimination cases will probably now be brought by smaller classes in courts across the country, and some will probably be settled, much as cases against other corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Toyota were settled. Wal-Mart will probably continue to beef up its diversity and corporate social responsibility efforts. Hopefully, the end result will be much more presence of women in management, as well as African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

    As the largest employer in the US, Wal-Mart bears a responsibility to look like America. That should be its diversity metric. It sells to everyone except the upper middle class and the wealthy, and so it should reflect its customer base.

  2. Hi Marc, This is Phil on the Walmart media team. Thanks for reading this post. I wanted to ensure you saw our statement on the recent Supreme Court ruling because it addresses some of your concerns.

    As we said last week, we have, and have had, strong policies against discrimination for many years and, as the majority made clear in the ruling, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy.

  3. Hi Phil, thanks for your note. Your press release doesn’t really address my concerns. The US Supreme Court was careful to note that it was not making any finding on the facts alleged, but was simply turning back the ability of the plaintiffs to bring the very large class action, on narrow legalistic grounds. The plaintiffs have been clear that they will continue to bring actions in other venues with smaller classes. They feel they have a strong case, and Walmart feels it has a strong case. There’s plenty of room between the positions to find areas of agreement and progress. It would be great if a respected and powerful company like Walmart could extent its philosophy of bringing low-cost, high-quality goods to ordinary Americans, to the idea of participating in low-cost, high-quality justice. I’m sure that the thousands of aggrieved women in the case, who have been waiting for years for their day in court, would prefer to reach a mutual agreement with Walmart. My experience with discrimination cases (I have no connection to the Walmart case) is that the parties almost always want to stay employed and in good relationship with the employer and to be treated fairly. Just as Walmart respects customers and takes back products the customer feels are faulty, it should give these women the benefit of the doubt, and start over with them in a new and clean relationship. Just as millions of Americans rely on Walmart for our daily consumer needs, it would be great if we could rely on Walmart for equity. Walmart possesses the resources, creativity, and innovation to make this happen. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.
    Marc Brenman

  4. No es más que una pequeña posibilidad de que un caso puede que lo sea ahora, a falta de mérito. La declaración de Wal-Mart parece regodearse. Con los años, he escuchado muchas quejas de las empleadas de Wal-Mart en relación con malos tratos. Un amigo tenía una maestría de la Universidad de Rutgers. Ella no pudo obtener un ascenso. Walmart se ha asegurado una posición strategc en el comercio minorista global. Parece que se han hecho a costa de muchos trabajadores desafortunado. Sin embargo, al menos una mujer, la señora Sharon Orlopp, fue capaz de alcanzar una posición de alto nivel. Enhorabuena. Como Director de Diversidad, que ha aceptado un gran legado para seguir adelante.

    Dio Thomas

  5. Sharon Orlopp defines ‘diversity’ as ‘fewer white people’. Which, of course, is advocating GENOCIDE.

    I wonder why ‘hispanics’ are so desperate to live in WHITE people’s countries? Why don’t you want to STAY in your OWN country, and be surrounded by ‘hispanics’?


  6. Sharon Orlopp isn’t going to be allowed into the coming ALL WHITE areas which whites will HAVE to create, in order to just to survive, due to the endless attacks which will happen to us from non-whites. So Sharon Orlopp is going to end up being murdered by the very people she betrayed her own people to prop up. Good luck with that, idiot, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person…

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