Walmart has been in the headlines often in recent years due to a multitude of sex discrimination allegations. That's probably why a recent Atlantic piece titled, "How Walmart is Making the World More Feminist," caught me off-guard.
In the article, Conor Friedersdorf writes that the campaign Walmart has launched following charges of unfair treatment by women in the workplace, may be, given the company's hand in so many markets, "among the biggest feminist triumphs that private industry has ever spurred."
In September, Walmart announced its global women's economic empowerment initiative, which includes sourcing a total of $20 billion in products from women-owned businesses in the United States over the next five years and doubling what it purchases from women-owned businesses globally by 2016.
Walmart said it will help 200,000 women in the U.S. from low-income households gain the skills they need for employment and a career, as well as retail training programs to help 200,000 more women internationally. The company said it will ask its vendors and services firms like ad agencies or public relations firms to increase gender and minority representation on their Walmart accounts, according to the New York Times.
Friedersdorf quotes C. Douglas McMillon, the CEO of Walmart International, who spoke on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival:
We know that women are disproportionately impoverished... As entrepreneurs they have a hard time getting access to capital. We know what women spend money on is typically their children, education and health care, which is different than what guys may spend money on. That matters. I was at a meeting a few months ago where someone called investment in women's empowerment a global stimulus package. There's some truth in that. And so we've made some commitments about how we source goods, what we expect from service providers as far as female representation, we've made a commitment to train 200,000 women to enter the workforce in retail. And we believe that's a good investment.
I'm not sure about you, but I never expected to hear the head of Walmart talking about the fact that women entrepreneurs have trouble gaining access to capital and that investing in women matters because of their commitment to spending on their families.
As an organization encouraging women business ownership, we hope that Walmart's program will help increase the number of women entrepreneurs. As the CEO of Walmart alludes to, investing in women is a "good investment" because of the ripple effects it creates.
This video shows why we view that good investment as a great one.