Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wal-Mart's Sexism "Victory"

In a comment entitled "Walmart should fear its gender bias culture" at The Financial Times, Philip Delves Broughton raises some troubling consequences of Wal-Mart's 5-4 judicial victory over women who work there:
Forget about male managers dressing up in tights and tutus at company retreats. That is standard “good ol’ boy” stuff. Walmart’s real problem is that women fill 70 per cent of the hourly jobs in its shops and yet make up only 33 per cent of management. Women are paid less than men in every region and the salary gap between men and women widens over time. The company maintains an official policy against discrimination, but by giving latitude to shop managers to hire and promote, it has allowed an unofficial culture to flourish, which favours the promotion of men.

The plaintiffs claimed that senior managers would refer to female associates as “little Janie Qs”, and that one manager told an employee that “men are here to make a career and women aren’t”.

There are millions of votes to be gained in next year’s presidential election by a candidate able to explain the proper, trusting relationship between employers and workers, one that is both economically sensible and fair.

Last week, the Obama administration proposed rules to bring greater transparency to negotiations between employers and employees. The unions are going to be ever more forceful leading up to the 2012 presidential election. If the president does not take up their cause, a rival will – and Walmart should be very afraid. If the economy keeps stumbling, this could be one way to the White House.

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