Wal-Mart Expanding Opportunities for Women

On the heels of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss a sex discrimination class-action lawsuit against the retail giant in June, Wal-Mart has announced its intention to expand opportunities for women.

The plan to be announced by Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke on Wednesday will also tout initiatives to increase sourcing from women-owned businesses, including construction firms as well as manufacturers.

The Supreme Court’s decision on the class-action lawsuit was a major win for the retail store, which has faced sex discrimination allegations in the past from women who have described a less than favorable working environment in which code words and stereotypical terms were applied to female employees.

The lawsuit also claimed that Wal-Mart’s policies and practices had led to countless discriminatory decisions over pay promotions. The suit had sought billions of dollars for as many as 1.5 million female workers.

As part of the company’s new effort to assist women, Wal-Mart plans on helping 400,000 women, including 200,000 U.S. women from low-income homes, to acquire important and necessary job related skills. The company is funding its plans with $100 million in grants from the Wal-Mart Foundation and its international businesses.

It is uncertain whether these steps will help the company avoid charges of sex discrimination in the future, still, Nell Merlino, the founder of the nonprofit organization Count Me in for Women’s Economic Independence, which has worked with Wal-Mart since 2008, has stated, “I don't know of any other company that's making that kind of commitment and my hope is that it encourages others to step up."

Walmart was founded in 1962, with the opening of the first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Ark. It was incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., on Oct. 31, 1969.

The company currently has 8,500 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names.