Wal-Mart announced it plans on initiating new programs aimed at helping women-owned businesses and female workers, only months after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit filed by female employees against the world's largest retailer.
Wal-Mart said it planned to source $20 billion in products from businesses owned by women in the U.S. over the next five years, averaging to about $4 billion a year, versus the $2.5 billion per year it usually spends. Moreover, the retailer said it will double what it purchases from women-owned businesses globally by 2016.
In addition, the company said it will support work training programs for women in factories and farms that supply goods to Wal-Mart, donate $100 million to causes supporting women's economic development and request that its vendors, advertising agencies and public relations firms increase gender and minority representation on their Wal-Mart accounts.
Wal-Mart employs approximately 2.1 million people across the globe, more than half whom are women.
If you look at retail, the vast majority of our customers are women, and if you look at Wal-Mart, the majority of our associates are women, Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, told The New York Times News Service. It makes complete sense for us to really have a focus on how we have the best associates we can, how we help women suppliers succeed and how we engage our communities.
Although Dach said Wal-Mart's announcement was not a reaction the class-action suit against the retailer, many critics believe otherwise.
About 1.5 million female employees came together to sue the company for sex discrimination in pay and promotion in Dukes vs. Walmart, the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in U.S. history. The case, which Wal-Mart spent 10 years and millions of dollars fighting, cited statistics showing that while women represent 70 percent of the company's hourly wage earners, only 33 percent of management positions are filled by females.
In June, after years of legal turmoil, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor, saying the plaintiffs -- which included women who worked or had previously worked in Wal-Mart stores since Dec. 1998 -- did not have enough in common to constitute a class.