Walmart Woos Women With Initiatives to Support Female-Owned Businesses

WalmartWalmart (WMT) is getting in touch with its feminine side. The mammoth retailer is cutting the machismo and embarking on initiatives supporting women workers and female-owned businesses.

Walmart's plans include supporting training programs for women in its suppliers' factories and farms, and donating $100 million to entities that aid female-focused economic development.

An even larger initiative is the company's five-year plan to spend $20 billion on products from U.S. women-owned businesses. This is a significant increase from the annual $2.5 billion it currently directs to that area.

Should Females Feel Fortunate or Fearful?

This could be a huge opportunity for some female-run businesses. Walmart's giant footprint makes it a coveted, powerful partner for suppliers. But that power can be destructive, too.

In the mid-1990s, Walmart basically ruined Rubbermaid by giving more shelf space to rivals. The result was a forced marriage for Rubbermaid, which yielded Newell-Rubbermaid (NWL).

Right now, Wal-Mart doesn't need any more bad press. This initiative -- while positive -- does seem suspiciously like the metaphorical equivalent of bestowing the sparkling Tiffany (TIF) diamond to say "I'm sorry" after the beat-down.

Walmart's Way of Dealing with Women Troubles?

Walmart denies that its female-centric moves have anything to do with that public relations debacle, but it's difficult to buy that.

The company has been grappling with allegations that it discriminated against female employees at stores across the country. The Supreme Court dismissed the potential for a massive (and massively expensive) class action lawsuit earlier this year, but individual gender discrimination claims are still on the table for Walmart.

Whether Walmart's plans will lead women to truly trust the retailer's good intentions is questionable; public relations damage control doesn't generally come across as genuine.

Regardless, Walmart's a massive, ubiquitous, and highly influential retailer that can make or break products, and its plans could help many women achieve more successful businesses and careers. Public outrage, not to mention threats of legal action, can bring about progress. However, that doesn't mean women shouldn't watch their charming new suitor's behavior carefully.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position on Wal-Mart.

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Women are not a minority. I dont buy from companies that advertise "Minority Owned" as they are geting a leg up on the rest of us. And using my tax dollars to do it! JMO

September 15 2011 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds to me like the men and husbands should stop buying from walmart. already when I goto walmart it appears that 75% of employees are women. JMO

September 15 2011 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never trust Mao Mart anymore. The company is run by a bunch of self righteous corporate goons who think they can do no wrong. The only reason they ever do anything perceived as good is the result of bad press and public outrage that forces them to change. As a former employee, it was made clear that their most important objective was their stock price. I agree that stock price is important, but satisfying the customer should come first, as Sam Walton believed. When a company such as Walmart keeps pissing off their customers and associates with their heavy handed business policies, the end result is a poor stock performance. In the meantime, the understaffed stores, lack of training, cutting of hours, and too few registers open at any given time persist.

September 15 2011 at 6:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Roy Hemion

what the hell is going on in this day and age? I dont understand why these thing remain to be the things that continue to drag this country dow,ow,down.. we need a major frickin overhaul in the us,. stop giving away free money to lazy people, ***** with 10 babies so they live off of our hard earned tax dollars,.,....foodstamps people trade for real cash so they could support their drug and liquor parties that are held at section 8 public assistance housing places hard working tax payers like you and me pay for. some of these damn cockroaches live a better life in a lot of ways......than you or me. they get houses...but pay no rent. Get a foodstmp budget over double if not more than that.......when compared to a working class of low, to avg income.

September 14 2011 at 10:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Roy Hemion's comment
Roy Hemion

and yes.....everyone runs into hard times and may need a little boost from goverment and state help programs, Im not talking about the people who run into some tough times and need a boost, im talking about the loads and loads of people who reproduce and reproduce because it means more foodstamps and cash for every head that the system feeds and sick of this crap and it needs to stop! I see it all over....even in my own family. It gross, and needs to stop. Us hard working tax payers are allowing these people to grow and mature untill they start the cycle all over again. Low life trashy people who mooch and suck the life out of these nice small towns and cities should not be given out free goods like food stamps and free housing. The people who make careers out of ripping off uncle sam should pay for these programs through work programs. These people should b given random drug and alcohol tests the entire time they are under the help of any state or federal program. Any only one person with an idea.....maybe one day I will ask for some help on ways to improve on other ideas that would benefit the country, and start a blog, or page to get these types of ideas out there.

September 14 2011 at 10:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lets not forget their free medical, free dental for kids, free eye glasses for kids, reduced lunches, reduced utility bills, on top of all of the above. Now they want to use their food stamps to go out to eat at restaurants (it's their new right). They live better than I do with their iphones, wiis and x boxes. Where does it end? Food stamps should not be able to be spent on anything other than staples and should not include soda, chips, cookies and crap. I don't spend my money on a lot of junk for my grandkids and I resent having my tax dollars spent on junk by a welfare recipient. I do not have the money to go out to dinner, my tax dollars should not send a welfare recipient out to dinner. I do not have medical insurance and resent my tax dollars being spent on drug addicts and welfare abusers. Drug testing should be required. Parents on welfare should at the very least be required to assist in classrooms where teachers are burdened with 35-40 kids.

September 14 2011 at 10:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Watch out Ladies the abusive boyfriend is back with flowers! Walmart shoppers keep telling yourself "they would never do that". We as a society do not need any favors from this bunch! Profit at any cost, predatory capitalism, etc. is why the social contract in this country is in the toilet.

September 14 2011 at 8:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Just more anti WalMart union backed propaganda!

September 14 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Corporate charity is bogus. What about keeping prices as low as possible so poor women can afford to buy more for their families? This is just a PR stunt that gets Wal mart a nice tax deduction, but results in higher prices for Wal mart customers. Companies don't pay taxes - people do.

September 14 2011 at 5:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply