(Bloomberg)—Walmart Inc. lost its second high-ranking female executive in the past few weeks as Gisel Ruiz has decided to take early retirement from its Sam’s Club division.
Ruiz, who was chief operations officer at Sam’s, is leaving to “pursue other passions,” according to an internal memo, dated March 6, from Sam’s Club CEO John Furner. Her departure follows that of fellow executive vice president Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s top human resources officer, who’s leaving for advertising giant WPP. Ruiz will be replaced by Walmart senior vice president Dacona Smith. A search is underway for Canney’s successor.
The exits are more evidence of Walmart’s longstanding struggles to retain female executives. Marybeth Hays, who had run its health and wellness business, left in January, and Sam’s Club chief Rosalind Brewer departed for Starbucks Corp. in 2017. Walmart has elevated some women into top positions, like international chief Judith McKenna and new chief customer officer Janey Whiteside, but many in senior executive roles are in areas such as human resources, legal and marketing, rather than operations.
The share of Walmart corporate officers who are women has increased since 2009, when then-CEO Mike Duke created a global women’s council tasked with developing female leaders.
Ruiz, who began at Walmart in 1992 as a store management trainee, held a series of high-profile roles in recent years, including chief operations officer of the U.S. division and head of international human resources. Those accomplishments earned her a spot on Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women in business list for several years. At Sam’s Club, she helped enhance the chain’s online business and boost employee satisfaction, Furner said in the memo.
“Gisel has left an indelible impression on our company,” he said.
Smith, who currently heads Walmart’s operations in the Western U.S., will also oversee real estate in his new role, which begins April 15. He started at Walmart as an hourly store associate in Oklahoma.
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