Walmart Inc. said executive vice president Chandra Holt is leaving to become chief executive officer of another company, a blow to the retailer’s push to boost diversity in its senior ranks.
Holt, who joined Walmart in 2015 and quickly shot up the ranks to become chief merchandising officer for its digital business, will leave Aug. 6, executive vice president Casey Carl said in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg. Holt, who previously worked at Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Target Corp., will join Conn’s Inc., the Texas-based furniture and home-goods retailer said in a separate statement Wednesday.
The departure of Holt, one of the company’s highest-ranking female executives, hurts Walmart’s decade-long push to put more women into upper management. In recent years, the company has seen several departures of high-ranking women, including Roz Brewer, who’s now running rival Walgreens after leaving Walmart for Starbucks in 2017. Walmart has also hired and promoted other female executives, including international chief Judith McKenna and Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside.
Women make up more than half of Walmart’s massive US workforce, yet just one out of three corporate officers is female, according to its latest diversity report. Still, that figure was below 30 percent a decade ago, when then-CEO Mike Duke promised to boost more women into leadership positions amid a class-action gender discrimination suit against the retailer. That case was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court.
As part of a broader push to address inequities across the company, Walmart has also enhanced its disclosure of diversity statistics. It will now report its progress on ethnic and gender diversity twice a year, and said it is “thoroughly reviewing” its hiring, development and reward practices.
Walmart said it’s working to find a replacement for Holt, who will assume her new role Aug. 9.
At Conn’s, she replaces chief executive officer Norm Miller, who will become executive chairman of the 131-year-old retailer that operates more than 150 locations, mainly in the US South.
At Walmart, Holt helped steer the company through the challenging integration of its brick-and-mortar and online operations that began two years ago. She previously oversaw a similar integration at Sam’s Club, Walmart’s wholesale arm, and also helped improve sales of the Member’s Mark private brand.
Conn’s shares fell 2.3 percent at 12:13 pm in New York trading. The stock’s value had almost doubled this year through Tuesday’s close. Walmart shares, which are flat this year, were little changed on Wednesday.
By Matthew Boyle
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