Walmart needs to hire a woman to be its CEO in order to convince the world that it is serious about changing its old-boy network and instances of turning a blind eye to conduct that includes its alleged past history of discrimination against women who made up 72% of its hourly sales employees. Now there is an alleged bribery accusation that Walmart executives face from long-term business practices in Mexico, according to an investigation by The New York Times today.
The Betty Dukes vs. Walmart suit, a class action suit filed in 2001, claimed that female employees were discriminated against with fewer promotions, raises, and opportunity for advancement within the company. The suit alleged that only 1/3 of the management positions at Walmart were held by women, and that women comprised only 10% of store managers and 4% of district managers.
Even though the Supreme Court ruled against the class action in 2011 because it considered the number of members of the class to be too large and disparate, individual women are not prevented from bringing suit against the largest private employer based in the U.S. Even though the top five officers of Walmart are all men, the Walmart proxy filed last week reveals that there are now four women among the fifteen members of its Board of Directors. Michele Burns, head of the Retirement Policy Center sponsored by Marsh and McClennan, joined in 2003. Aida Alverez, head of the Small Business Administration under Clinton, was appointed in 2006. Linda Wolf, former CEO of Leo Burnett, joined the board in 2006. And, just this year, joining the board was Marissa Mayer, a senior executive at Google who manages all products at Google. This was certainly good PR for a company under seige from women claiming discrimination.
The core values of the Walmart empire, based on the company’s own ethics codes, have now been called into question by an investigation into the alleged payment of bribes throughout Mexico to allow for speedy placement of Walmart stores, as reported in The New York Times today. Walmart and the founding family could make an important decision to change the last decade of corporate behavior by hiring a competent female CEO from the pool of women who currently run America’s largest companies that have an important global presence. Two logical choices are Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld and Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico.
There were no women at the top in any of these public-relations, ethical, and legal problems at Walmart. It is time to put a woman in charge at Walmart.
Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D.
Publisher, Women’s Voices for Change