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'Not Enough' Blacks on Whole Foods' Executive Board, Co-CEO Says

By Andrea V. Watson | September 24, 2015 5:40am
 Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, (r.), talks to an Englewood resident.
Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb, (r.), talks to an Englewood resident.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

ENGLEWOOD — Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb said he needs more African-Americans on both his board of directors and executive leadership team.

At a meeting sponsored by the Resident Association of Greater Englewood Tuesday night, and held at Kennedy-King College, Robb was asked by Keith Harris, president of the Englewood Political Task Force, how many blacks are on the Whole Foods executive board.

Robb, who was sitting, stood up, grabbed the microphone, and said: "Not enough."

There was a slight gasp from those in the audience in response to Robb's answer.

Only one African-American, Gabrielle Sulzberger, sits on the Whole Foods board of 10 people. One of two women on the board, Sulzberger has served since 2003.

Fortune, which named Whole Foods one of the 100 best companies to work for, reports that 15 percent of Whole Foods' nearly 77,000 employees nationwide are African-American. Another 22 percent are Hispanic/Latino. A total of 44 percent are minorities.

Whole Foods plans to hold an employment open house for 80-90 jobs, said Michael Bashaw, Whole Foods Market Midwest Regional president. The goal is to hire as many people from the community as possible.

"We’ll have an open hiring process," he said. "We'll be in a big room, and hopefully, everyone will get a chance to talk to us."

Current employees from other locations will have the opportunity to transfer to the Englewood location as well.

RAGE President Asiaha Butler praised the grocer's willingness to face the community.

"The whole room was filled," she said. "I know I've learned how to facilitate, how to ask those tough questions, and it not be in a way where people are afraid to answer. They put them out there, and that’s what we do. What I love about this is that Whole Foods is open to that. They came to our meeting, and I think they were ready."

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