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Walmart CEO urges companies at CES 2021 to use data to reduce racial inequality

Doug McMillon says companies should turn tools for growing their business inward to create opportunity for employees.

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Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Wednesday that businesses should use their data analytics tools to improve diversity and opportunities for employees.

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Businesses use data to improve all the time, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said at a virtual CES panel Wednesday. So companies can use the same data analytics tools that help grow productivity, profits and customer loyalty to improve diversity within the company.

"Put the business to work," McMillon said. For Walmart, that includes examining pay and promotion policies, and giving employees more information about how much diversity is represented in new hires and different levels of management.

McMillon made the remarks as he talked about Walmart's response to calls for an end to systemic racism this summer in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Other executives, including the heads of Best Buy, Mastercard and Accenture, have discussed how large businesses can create financial opportunities for Black people.

In addition to internal diversity efforts, the companies have made financial commitments. Mastercard plans to invest in $500 million Black communities, and Walmart set aside $100 million for philanthropic efforts that address inequality in the "healthcare, education, and criminal justice systems." The CEOs' comments at CES have not directly addressed calls to end police brutality.

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McMillon also described how the coronavirus pandemic has sped up changes in how Walmart serves customers. The company rolled out measures to protect store employees, including millions of surgical masks and plexiglass barriers for cashiers and pharmacists. It also faced disruptions to the supply chain for food and goods and ramped up delivery and curbside pickup for purchases. It also created a new subscription service, Walmart Plus, for grocery delivery.

McMillon noted he started with Walmart as an associate in a distribution center 30 years ago. "There's more change happening now than in those 30 years," he said.