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14 May 2019

Promote women and promote change says Walmart boss

Promote women and promote change says Walmart boss

Walmart International President and CEO calls for commitment from industry to create a platform for women to take senior roles.

Global retail businesses need to look at the models they are working with and adapt to the new values their consumers have, Walmart International president Judith McKenna told delegates at the World Retail Congress in Amsterdam yesterday.

She also called on “each and everyone” to do more to create pathways for women to rise to senior positions within retail organisations and said that helping to position women at the helm of some of the international divisions of Walmart remains one of her top goals.

Walmart currently operates in 27 countries and McKenna said: “Businesses like ours are finding different models in the markets we are working in. In particular you have to look at the value people are giving to their time. So we need to understand and adapt to the best way of serving our customers.”

She stressed that “trust is part of the expectation” and said that as a business “you have to do good in business; more and more people are connecting what you do with where they want to buy”.

McKenna is known as a keen advocate of the role of technology and innovation in the retail sector but also said that attracting and keeping the right people is becoming increasingly important. “We need enough talent to do these reimagined jobs,” she said. “We need the right people to take retailers forward who can adapt to a digital world. Leadership is also a very important element of that.”

On the blocking of a merger between Asda and Sainsbury's in the UK she said that she “genuinely believed this was a one-off opportunity to accelerate cost reductions”.

She added of the regulatory conclusion that the merger would decrease price competitiveness: “I would challenge anyone who thinks you can put up prices in this sort of competitive market. But that was then, this is now. Life moves on quickly. Focus on what is next, a line has been drawn.”

Turning to the lack of senior women in the retail industry, she said: We have an obligation to find people and bring them through; everyone has an obligation, starting with diverse candidate lists that are broad enough and creating the right pipelines. It's a commitment for each of us, to create a platform for more women in the business.”

McKenna was awarded onstage with the Woman of the Year award, sponsored by Clarity.

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