retail news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of accused gender discrimination at Walmart, one MNB user wrote:

A friend of mine is a pharmacy technician at Walmart. They recently were forced to hire a female Pharmacist to replace the previous male pharmacist who retired. Unfortunately, the new Pharmacist, even though she has worked for Walmart for over 15 years has had no managerial training and her staff is suffering for it. I think Walmart has failed in more than one way in this instance, by promoting a woman with no experience dealing with employees, and failing to train her to deal with employees and management practices. I’m not sure if this is just a practice previously applied only to women in Walmart, but it’s pretty telling. Good move, guys……

And MNB user David Livingston wrote:

There is no such thing as gender discrimination.  We are all free to pick and choose our compensation and career path.  If the women at Wal-Mart earn less, its because they choose to earn less.  Men or women do not have to accept the wages offered and can opt into other employment.  It appears that at Wal-Mart, women opt to earn less, with is pretty much like all other businesses.

The best gauge for earnings is self employment.  Do men self-employed attorneys, brokers, real estate agents, doctors, accountants, pro golfers, actors, etc earn more than women in the same profession?  Probably.  I pretty much hire all women for these jobs because they not only do an outstanding job, they do it for less money.  They opt to do it for less.  Why?  Don't know, they just do.

There are two different things at work here.

In the first email, it seems to me, you may two different problems at work.

One problem may be that Walmart could be reacting to discrimination accusations by promoting people who should not be promoted. The other is that Walmart’s training protocols are not what they should be (and this could affect both men and women). Both are problems, but only one of them has anything to do with gender discrimination.

Of course, there’s another possibility - that this is an isolated case of a screw-up. This stuff happens. Remember the Peter Principle?

The second email, however, is evidence of something else. I hope that it is evidence that in an industry that markets primarily to women, that is made up of some of the smartest and most talented women that I have ever met, there remain pockets of dinosaur-like thinking that reflects the very worst of male chauvinism. (To say there is no such thing as gender discrimination seems like the kind of thing that only a guy - and not that many guys - would say. I am not saying here that women don’t have choices, or that they should play the victim when not treated fairly. But that is not the same thing as suggesting that sometimes they do not have choices, and that sometimes they are treated unfairly, and that they have the right to equitable treatment. Next thing you know, he’ll be saying that there is no such thing as racial discrimination, just African-Americans who don’t choose better circumstances.)

I’ll be honest here. I debated with myself long and hard about whether to use David Livingston’s name here...because I cannot imagine circumstances under which any woman in this industry would read these comments and then want to hire him for his marketing and/or consumer knowledge.

But on the other some level, one has to be responsible for the comments one makes and the positions one holds. To not attribute these comments - and he did not ask for anonymity - also did not seem right.

Let the chips fall where they may.
KC's View: