Rosalind Brewer, CEO of membership-based retail warehouse club Sam’s Club, caused a stir last week when she told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that she makes diversity “a priority” in her leadership team. She said, “I demand it of my team and within the structure [of Sam’s Club], and every now and then you have to nudge your partners and you have to speak up and speak out.”
Harlow asked her to clarify what she meant when she said she “demands” diversity of her team. She asked Brewer, “In hiring, do you demand it when you are hiring for the top spots?” Brewer was emphatic. “Absolutely! And not only that … I talk to my suppliers about it. Just today we met with a supplier and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian male.” She smiled, nodding her head, and added, “That was interesting.” Then she laughed and repeated, “That was interesting.”
It takes little imagination to predict the results if the CEO of that supplier had told CNN, “When we met with the leadership of Sam’s Club, the entire other side of the table was all minorities and women. That was interesting.” Much less if the CEO had then laughed as if it were ridiculous.
There is a ditch on either side of the road and it appears that Sam’s Club has decided to steer toward the ditch of hiring and promoting based on race and gender, rather than talent and qualification. The company also seems to have no qualms about pressuring its suppliers to do the same. As Brewer put it, “Every now and then you have to nudge your partners.”