retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a Reuters report that a gender discrimination class action suit against Costco has been certified by a US district court judge, and will be allowed to proceed.

The story said that "three women plaintiffs say Costco's promotion system has a disparate impact on women employees who seek advancement to general manager and assistant general manager," and they sought to have the class action expanded to represent 700 people. One of the reasons that the judge said that the Costco suit is different from a gender discrimination suit against Walmart, which did not get class action certification, is that the Walmart suit was much broader, seeking to represent a whopping 1.5 million people.

I commented:

Or, maybe Costco needs to get better lawyers.

Which led MNB user Pamela Hesselbacher to write:

Read your column every day and love it.  While I don’t believe you did so intentionally, your commentary on the Costco Gender Bias Suit came off as a bit dismissive to the very large and very real issue of gender discrimination in the workplace.  I’m guessing/hoping that you were being tongue-in-cheek in implying that mega-corporations could make their problems “disappear” with enough money and the right legal team.

The sad reality is that they can and do often get away with discrimination this way.  Instead of suggesting that Costco get better lawyers, perhaps you could have suggested that Costco and the likes start treating all of their employees with respect, regardless of gender.  That way, there’s no need for these class act lawsuits in the first place.  Or, make use of the notation so your feminist readers like myself don’t get all fired up when you make light of a serious issue.


You're right - I was being tongue-in-cheek.

There's nothing funny about a gender discrimination case.

Without prejudging either the Walmart or the Costco cases, I've always wondered this about the companies where gender discrimination is practiced or tolerated: Is it possible that the men who work there did not have mothers or sisters or wives or daughters?

Because that is the only way to explain why someone would discriminate against any woman.

My apologies if it seemed like I was taking a serious issue too lightly. Though, to be honest, I sort of see making jokes about serious issues to be part of my job description.




I wrote yesterday about a Wall Street Journal story concerning how a lot of CEOs have Tweeting anxiety. These executives, the story said, avoid Twitter and other forms of social media - "with its demands for quick, unscripted updates that can quickly go viral" - because they are afraid of making mistakes in public forums. However, there is increasing pressure on many of them to be accessible and "authentic," and these days, social media participation can be an important part of that equation.

I commented:

At some level, I wonder if this really is about how people define leadership. Some will be comfortable with accessibility and being open to comments from both employees and customers, and others will prefer a more insulated stance. It seems to me, though, that leaders have to define themselves within the context of what their constituencies demand. More and more, those constituencies are going to be demanding more open and engaged leaders.

MNB user Steve Kneepkens responded:

Ah, no. Leaders do not have define themselves by the context of their constituents. We need to define ourselves by our values, our ethics and our ownership in in ourselves and the decisions we make.. If that “leads” to a leadership position then it has defined you and you have defined it.

So- if they are not tweeting – they are not leading? If we now define leadership by how often one is “public” we might as well have Snookie – or whatever her name is – run for President. We don’t need another celebrity President – just like we don’t need celebrity leaders. We need leaders that lead.


I did not say that if leaders are not Tweeting they are not leading. And I would suggest that it is entirely possible to have values and ethics and a sense of self and still define their leadership styles by being more open and engaged with various constituencies that they want to follow them.

I'm also not saying that every leader has to follow the same path, and be equally engaged and accessible through such technologies ... just that it seems to me that the direction of the culture demands different things of modern leaders.

Another MNB user wrote:

For CEO's there is always going to be exposure navigating the tricky waters of twitter. And if they are ever going to appear relevant, they are going to most certainly make a big gaffe. Guaranteed. It will always happen. But that may just be okay.

Because here's the thing, tweeting is about spontaneous reactions to life around us. I found it hilarious that Mr. Papadellis was chastised --and censored-- by his communication director for planning a tweet that talked about drinking cranberry juice before eating Sushi blah blah. The idea that he was planning tweets and running them by a director is BIG FAIL #1, but ironically his director stopped him from BIG FAIL #2. Tweeting worthless, self-interested blather hardly speaks to transparency and authenticity ... So long as as CEO's treat twitter as a carefully guarded PR outlet, they probably would be advised to stay away from Twitter."

Another MNB user wrote:

Lo and behold.  Tweeting reveals...that CEOs are human and have doubts. 
KC's View: