How a global shift on race is pushing companies to get serious about diversity

·3 min read

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the parent company of Walgreens, is taking a hardline stance on diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace by looking inward and being transparent about their own numbers. The company last week released its second ever DEI report entitled, “Our Values. Our People. Our Differences,” where for the first time it publicly released demographic data by race along with key areas of growth opportunity for the company.

“Transparency is the key,” Carlos Cubia, WBA Senior VP and Global Chief Diversity Officer, told Yahoo Finance. “If we want to do better, if we want to show folks that we are truly serious about this work, then we want to put it out there and show what's our starting point. And then what's the Northstar that we're working towards.”

In the report WBA shared that the company is made up of more than 48% of people of color, but less than 20% of senior leaders are people of color. More specifically, Black and Hispanic senior leadership accounts for less than 5% each. It’s a serious area of opportunity for growth for the company – so much that Walgreens committed to a 2% annual increase in people of color in leadership positions and 3% annual increase in women in leadership positions. It’s something Cubia says the company will benefit from in a variety of ways.

The racial reckoning of last summer that reverberated around the world after the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and the killing of Breonna Taylor sent residual shockwaves through corporate America. Many companies made lofty pledges of dramatic increases in diversity, while others made large donations to social action groups. Over a year later, while many have fallen short on these promises, others, like WBA, have stepped up in a major way.

Earlier this year, WBA hired Roz Brewer as its new CEO; Brewer is currently one of just two Black women CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. The company also appointed Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, to its board of directors. And it wants to do more.

The Walgreens store at State and Randolph Streets in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
The Walgreens store at State and Randolph Streets in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Diversity is profitable

A McKinsey report from 2020 showed that the more diverse a company’s leadership was, the more profitable that company is.

“Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen,” the report read in part. “The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.”

A veteran D&I executive with more than a decade of experience in the space, Cubia says the corporate landscape continues to evolve, but the core remains the same — people want to work where they feel valued.

“There's a huge demand on talent across corporate America and just even in this global economy that we're in, people are fighting for talent,” he said. “A solid DEI practice helps you to retain that talent [and] it helps you to connect because when someone's looking for an employer and deciding where they want to go to work, they're looking and saying is, ‘Is this company woke and is this the kind of company I want to be a part of?’”

Marquise Francis is a reporter and producer for Yahoo News.