Wal-Mart widening the gender partition

Photograph of a Wal-Mart store exterior in Laredo, Texas

Photograph taken by Jared C. Benedict on 22 February 2004. (Wikimedia/CC BY-SA)

The differences in economic opportunity distribution between women and men within occupations have never been a model of equality in the U.S. This job disparity continues to be a prominent feature of the current labor market, as shown by the recent allegations against Wal-Mart. Such an employer is supposed to evaluate each person as an “individual” without regard to gender and must assess their qualifications in light of the requirements of a specific job.

Examples of prohibited discrimination

An employer cannot refuse to hire or promote women based on the belief that women typically stop working when they marry or have children. Moreover, employers cannot segregate male and female jobs because they believe men make good managers, are aggressive and take charge, or that women deal better with detail work, have patience and can handle repetitive jobs. In this case, there is the absence of gender equality.

Gender equality refers to equal rights

In a broad sense, gender equality refers to equal rights in a number of dimensions. These include economic opportunities, access to public goods, participation in public decision-making and employment. Although linked to some of these factors, wage discrimination is generally understood as referring to women being paid lower wages after accounting for observable attributes. Even though considerable progress has been made in studying these issues during the past decade, most of the available work has focused on formal markets in developed economies. In addition to the definition and measurement of discrimination, attention has focused on whether recent events will affect the level of discrimination in specific ways.

Economic openness will relieve inequality?

One issue of interest is whether economic openness in general and international trade in particular will reduce levels of discrimination. Comparison of gender wage gaps in industries with different levels of competition before and after trade liberalization supports the hypothesis that trade could benefit women by reducing the ability of firms to discriminate against them. Many believe that the increase in use of bad credit short term loans and bank direct deposit loans by women is attributable to this disparity.

Recently in the U.S., the women workers of Wal-Mart claimed that the company discriminates against gender in terms of the employment of women. Wal- Mart, in fact, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene so that it would not face a colossal law suit based on gender discrimination. It is widely recognized that in many societies, women face discrimination on the labor market. Gender-pay differences vary. In fact, not so long ago, discrimination against women was seen with a significant rise in gender-pay differences at the dawn of the 20th century.

Hostile environment for women in the workplace

When asked to think about a hostile environment for women in the workplace, many of us would first envision overt instances of sexual harassment or blatant employment discrimination. These associations are certainly not astonishing; even in an age in which these behaviors are denounced and in large parts illegal, such organizational misconduct seems almost commonplace. There have been many high-profile allegations of discrimination leveled against organizations in the last several years. Now Wal–Mart seems to have been added to the list of such organizations. In this context, Wal–Mart must be open to scrutiny to dispel the claim that it is discriminating against women.


Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2010/0825/Wal-Mart-asks-Supreme-Court-to-block-giant-gender-bias-lawsuit

Wal-Mart Watch: http://walmartwatch.com/img/blog/gender_discrimination.pdf

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