Betty Dukes takes on Wal-Mart

Nine years ago Betty Dukes filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging gender stereotyping and discrimination.  According to a Business Week article, experts hired by the Plaintiffs’ attorneys provided evidence that, across the US, women were paid less than men and in every job category. They also found that it took women longer to reach management positions than men. CNN also cites that the lawsuit alleges that “…women make up more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart‘s hourly work force but in the past decade made up less than one-third of its store management.”

The 9th Cir. Court of Appeals just certified the case as a class action lawsuit, allowing more than 1 million women to join.

Emily at

has posted a great chart which obviously outlines the pay disparity at issue.

HipHopWired has a brief synopsis of the news:

Male-female income disparity, the gender earnings gap and the gender pay gap are all terms used to describe what women across the U.S. know every time they get their paycheck: men get paid more than women. For the same job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release dated April 15, 2010 cites

“Women who usually worked full time had median earnings of $665 per week, or 78.8 percent of the $844 median for men.”
Of course, not only is there a gender gap, but there is also a large difference in earnings based on race and ethnicity. The same News Release cites
“median earnings for black men working at fulltime jobs were $635 per week, 73.1 percent of the median for white men ($869). .. black women’s median earnings ($584) were 86.1 percent of those for white women ($678). …median earnings of Hispanics who worked full time ($554) were lower than those of blacks ($610), whites ($772), and Asians ($859).”

I’ve been reading news articles that women from the Civil Rights generation, from the 1960s, are worried that young women today think that we have reached gender equality and that upon graduation from high school, tech. school, and college, they will have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The same opportunities? Maybe. The same rewards? Not yet.


3 responses to “Betty Dukes takes on Wal-Mart

  1. We must be careful not to generalize from one specific example. At BASF, women were paid exactly the same as men. Opportunities for advancement into management were even better for women than for men because we were so eager to have better representation on our management teams. Women generally do not choose to study Chemistry or Engineeeering, hence a lack of women entering the workforce.
    It’s a question of numbers, what percentage of women entering University take up studies wheich lead to degrees in Business vs men? In the end, we choose the most capable and qualified people. So to look at men in management and then look at women in the total workforce is misleading.
    I appreciate that women want to have equal opportunity, but they must first have equal qualifications.

    • But if you don’t generalize, and you look at pay in individual professions, I still think you’ll find income disparity. In terms of Engineering, I’ll give you this:
      “The study showed that the salary gap is primarily explained by the fact that female engineers, on average, have fewer years of experience since their first baccalaureate degree than males; salaries of female and male engineers with similar years of experience are virtually the same.” taken from a 1999 study by the National Science Foundation (yeah, I’ll trust them!):

      But, in another science field, medicine, the Dartmouth Medicine Magazine published a study stating this: “For every $1,000 in adjusted income that the average white male ob-gyn earns, a white woman makes $837 and a black woman makes $850.”

      And, obviously, the greeters, baggers, and checkout women working at Wal-mart have a case too.

  2. As a Human Resource Professional I spent 20 years trying to equalize the salaries within the business lines I supported so that pay was based on experience and performance, not gender. Then one day I was asked to manage, train and develop a male HR Manager with about 3 years of experience who was making more money then me. It didn’t feel good, right or fair. And you can bet I talked to my boss about it! I had a raise the next week!

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