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Wal-Mart opens books on labor diversity

Wal-Mart has opened its books to show exactly how many women and minorities it employs in the United States, the first time it has released the data.
Wal-Mart Opens New Store Just Outside Chicago
Wal-Mart sales associates arrange clothing at a Wal-Mart store in Evergreen Park, Illinois. The retailer has released a report for 2005 that shows 32 percent of its workers in the U.S. were minorities or women.Tim Boyle / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has opened its books to show exactly how many women and minorities in the United States work for the world’s largest employer, the first time it has released the data it files each year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Wal-Mart’s move comes amid calls from religious investors and workers rights groups for the Bentonville, Ark.-based company to prove it is meeting verbal commitments to increase diversity and prevent discrimination. Wal-Mart also faces a class-action discrimination lawsuit on behalf of all current and former U.S. female employees.

The report for 2005 showed that 32 percent of the 1.34 million Wal-Mart employees in the United States were minorities or women. That level varied by occupational group, including 21 percent of top officers and managers, 20 percent of professionals and 33 percent of sales workers.

The report did not provide comparative data for previous years.

Chief Executive Lee Scott said in an executive summary that Wal-Mart last year expanded diversity targets for managers from a group of 3,500 officers and senior managers to include more than 51,000 store-level managers. Scott said the goals were all met, but did not elaborate.

The publication of the 2005 employment data comes a year after Wal-Mart first provided a summary of some of those numbers, but not the full report, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said.

“This year is another step toward being a more transparent corporation in all aspects of our business, including diversity,” spokeswoman Sarah Clark said.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a religious investor group, welcomed Wal-Mart’s compliance with a demand made in its shareholder resolutions for the past four years.

Sister Barbara Aires of Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, N.J., a member of the ICCR coalition, said the move would lay a statistical basis for measuring Wal-Mart’s progress in future year.

“Religious investors with Wal-Mart holdings have worked tirelessly with Wal-Mart’s management to disclose and improve its policies for recruiting, training and mentoring throughout the company’s various divisions and management,” Aires said in a statement.