• Wed, Sep 14 2011

Walmart Rebrands Itself As Bastion Of Female Empowerment

Walmart announced today that it’s launching a “major initiative” to “empower women across its supply chain.” So the company that was the defendant in the biggest sex-discrimination case in history is now going to do something nice for the ladies. Gee, thanks, mister!

That lawsuit had first been filed in 2001 on behalf a Walmart employee named Betty Dukes and five coworkers. The women claimed they were paid less than male colleagues, and consistently passed over for promotions. The broader complain showed that Walmart women earned less and were promoted less frequently than men, and alleged that this was due to Walmart’s deliberate corporate culture.

That lawsuit was dismissed by the Supreme Court this summer on somewhat technical grounds. And now Walmart is announcing a new slate of goals for itself, to be achieved by 2016.

The list includes:

  • “Source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the U.S. and double sourcing from women suppliers internationally.”
  • “Help 60,000 women working in factories that supply products to Walmart and other retailers develop the skills they need to become more active decision-makers in their jobs and for their families.”
  • “Increase gender diversity among major suppliers. The company will work with major professional service firms and merchandise suppliers with over $1 billion in sales to increase women and minority representation on Walmart accounts.”

The company also presents specific goals for its operations in countries including China, India, and Brazil.

Well, that all sounds nice! Seriously, it does. And perhaps it all happen just as planned and right on schedule. This is often how real change occurs – incrementally, slowly, and in between failures. But for now, these are goals, not achievements. Walmart’s “achievements” when it comes to women in the workplace has so far been less than stellar. So I don’t think it’s too cynical to want to see some results before we break out the champagne.

Still, let’s begrudgingly admit that it’s heartening to see this kind of language from a corporation: “We do not believe that a company has to choose between being a successful business and a responsible one,” Leslie Dach, Walmart’s executive vice president of Corporate Affairs, said in the press release. “We have a model for making a difference that works. When we combine the Walmart model with women’s empowerment, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference on the big challenges facing our world.”

PS: In case you were wondering, Leslie’s a man.

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