Just months after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed the class-action lawsuit status of a case accusing Wal-Mart of treating its female employees with bias, the world’s largest retailer launched a global initiative aimed at boosting opportunities for women in the U.S. and abroad.
Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke announced the Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, a 5-year, $20 billion effort to improve business opportunities for women across the company’s supply chain. Wal-Mart will work with non-profits, philanthropic groups and overseas governments to achieve 5 overarching goals in the next half-decade. According to the company, they include:
1. Increase sourcing from women-owned businesses. Over the next five years, the company will source $20 billion from women-owned businesses in the U.S. and double sourcing from women suppliers internationally.
2. Empower women on farms and in factories through training, market access and career opportunities. New programs will help 60,000 women working in factories that supply products to Wal-Mart and other retailers develop the skills they need to become more active decision-makers in their jobs and for their families. The initiative will also help women farm workers participate more fully in the agriculture supply chain.
3. Empower women through job training and education. Successful retail training programs will be scaled to help 200,000 women internationally. In the U.S., Wal-Mart will help 200,000 women from low-income households gain job skills and access higher education.
4. Increase gender diversity among major suppliers. The company will work with major professional service firms and merchandise suppliers with over $1 billion in sales to increase women and minority representation on Wal-Mart accounts.
5. Make significant philanthropic giving toward women’s economic empowerment. The company will support these programs with more than $100 million in grants that drive progress against key goals. Funding will come from the Walmart Foundation and donations directly from Wal-Mart’s international businesses.
“Helping more women live better is a defining issue for our business and our world,” said Duke. “We’re stepping up our efforts to help educate, source from and open markets for women around the world. We want women to view us as a retailer that is relevant to them and cares about them. We want them to be leading suppliers, managers and loyal customers.”
Some of the international groups Wal-Mart will partner with in the initiative include CARE, Vital Voices, CountMeIn, WBENC and WeConnect International.
“This effort recognizes the untapped power of women around the world and CARE is honored to partner with Walmart on this groundbreaking initiative,” said Helene Gayle, president and CEO, CARE. “Together we can sustainably and dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of women – factory workers and farmers among them. Together we will see these women change the lives of their families and communities for the better.”
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