Gender & Society, January 2023
Walmart’s Women’s Empowerment Program was celebrated in the press as “tremendously consequential,” with the potential to be “… the biggest feminist triumphs that private industry has ever spurred.” The program made headlines across the mainstream press whilethe American Chamber of Commerce recognized it as the “Best Empowerment Program.” The World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy platform upheld the program as a model for other corporations to emulate.
Perhaps success was measured in the distance traveled from Walmart’s disempowerment of its women workers, who protested the discrimination they faced from male managers by filing the largest class action lawsuit in history against the firm. However, a closer look at the program reveals a set of actions that are at best insignificant to women working for Walmart, at worst detrimental to women’s status in the workplace. It is an example of what we call a gender fix in our recent article in Gender & Society. It uses women’s status as caregivers to repair corporate imagery. Walmart outsources this work to women business owners in its supply chain.