Walmart is losing one of its highest-ranking female executives, a blow to the retailer’s decade-long effort to promote women into senior leadership roles.
Marybeth Hays, who had served as executive vice president of consumables and health and wellness for just over a year, will leave the company in January, according to an internal memo sent Friday from U.S. chief Greg Foran.
Hays joined Walmart in 2009 from Lowe’s Cos. and had risen quickly up the ranks, but was sidelined when the company named a former Humana executive to run the health care unit last month.
Her exit illustrates Walmart’s struggles to hold onto high-profile female executives. While the retailer recently elevated Judith McKenna to run its international business, last year it lost Sam’s Club chief Rosalind Brewer, who now is at Starbucks.
Many of the women in senior executive roles at Walmart are in areas such as human resources and legal, such as Rachel Brand, who left the Justice Department to head global governance earlier this year.
Hays was one of the few in an operational role, which is the natural path to the corner office at a retailer.
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.
At the time, less than 28 percent of the company’s senior executives were women.
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That figure rose to a high of 32 percent in 2015, but declined to 30 percent last year, according to company filings.
That figure does not account for two recent hires — Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside and U.S. marketing chief Barbara Messing.