Wal-Mart is widely known as an international retailer conducting business in 27 countries under 69 different banners, but that diversity has also taken root in Bentonville.
On any given day Wal-Mart’s home office at 8th & Walton could double as the United Nations, with 31 different countries represented among the retailer’s corporate staff.
Wal-Mart on Thursday (Sept. 19) held its second annual Cultural World Fair in the corporate auditorium. There was so much interest from various ethnic groups the event spilled over into several hallways where employees could sample foods, hear music, or get their name written in Chinese.
“The response for this year’s event was outstanding, we had to cut off the sign-ups a little early because there was so much interest and we weren’t sure how much space we would have. You can see we had to move into the hallway this year,” said Keisha Hines-Craft, event organizer.
She said last year there were 15 booths at the fair, growing to 31 this year. The event is designed to promote diversity within the home office.
“You know we work together every day and yet we know very little about these diverse cultures in this huge melting pot. We don’t visit everyone’s homes where we might learn more, so this fair is a great opportunity for the various cultures to embrace their differences and share those with one another” Hines-Craft said.
A long line of women stretched across the auditorium waiting to get their hands tattooed with form of artistry known as Henna Mehndi in India.
“It’s very popular in India, it’s not ink, but a natural product made from henna. It lasts about two weeks, it looks black but when it dries and the hand is washed the design turns orange,” said Anu Sugu.
She immigrated to the United States from India about 8 years ago, and celebrates her 1 year anniversary at Wal-Mart next month.
Standing nearby was Godwin Banjoko, dressed in his traditional Nigerian attire. Banjoko immigrated to the U.S. six years ago to work in Walmart’s Information Services Division.
Banjoko said the fair was a great way for him to see all of the other cultures that help to make up his growing Wal-Mart family.
Sophia Pai, formerly from Hong Kong, took time to script people’s names in Chinese at China’s booth.
Nancy Crofe recently immigrated to Bentonville from Santiago, Chile, to work as an international recruiter.
“I spent four years with Wal-Mart in Chile and I have just been here one month. I love it the people are so friendly. The city I come from is very crowed, 5 million people and so much traffic. It’s very calm here,” Crofe said.
This was also the first year the fair was open to various resource groups within the Wal-Mart home office. Since 2005, Wal-Mart has had Associate Resource Groups at its corporate offices as part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“These groups allow for inclusion and are great opportunities for our associates, especially those who are new here, to find colleagues with similar beliefs and cultural backgrounds,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie.
U.N.I.T.Y. is an African American Resource Group that hosted a booth at this year’s fair. The representatives served up healthy and tasty helpings of soul food.
A.P.A.N. (Asian Pacific Associates Network( and Pride, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and ally group, were also present at Thursday’s fair with information booths.