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Women, Wal-Mart & Mill

April 6, 2011

Recently, I viewed a March 30th CNN news story depicting gender discrimination in the workplace.  After this segment was over, all I could think about was how much the situation related to Mill.

In 2001, a group of six female Wal-Mart employees, representing a group of nearly 1.5 million female associates, filed lawsuit against Wal-Mart, accusing the company of engaging in acts of gender bias. In an interview with Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart employee, we learn that male workers have been promoted much more frequently than women and men have simply been able to advance in all aspects of employment more than women have.  Betty claims women have been consistently underpaid in every division of the company.   Currently, the Supreme Court is deciding whether 1.5 billion women can file class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart for acts of gender discrimination.  Ms. Dukes hopes Wal-Mart will readdress how they treat and promote their female employees.

As a supporter of greater rights for women, I thought Mill would be horrified that this situation of gender inequality is still such a prevalent issue in today’s workforce.  This case against Wal-Mart certainly exemplifies how women are hindered by gender construction in society.  Mill, however, would be proud of Betty Dukes for voicing her opinion, making a bold statement against Wal-Mart’s treatment of women, and not giving up the fight for equality.

Now, we must wait and see what the Supreme Court ultimately decides on this matter of gender discrimination.  Maybe Mill’s ideals will be upheld if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the female employees by advancing greater equality rights for women, or maybe they will simply be ignored.

Link to CNN news clip:

  1. Jeremy Kucera permalink
    April 6, 2011 2:56 PM

    I found this an interesting blog post Caroline. It is easy to compare’s Mill’s views of equality for women to Wal-Mart’s accused gender discrimination. Although, I always find it hard to compare somebody who lived in the 19th century to events today. I’m not saying you are wrong, it is perfectly resonable to infer what Mill may have thought because he clearly writes pro-women in “The Subjection of Women.” However I just feel the need to note that Mill did live in a time where women had nearly no rights compared to those of men. For any man living in the 19th century it would be absurd to see that women could actually work in the same places as men (like in Walmart.) The fact they aren’t being promoted as much as men would have seemed right and normal to men in the 19th centruy.

    Secondly, this case that these women have against Walmart makes me very curious. Do I actually believe that Walmart managment is systematically paying women less and not giving them an equal chance at promotion? I don’t think so, but I do like to believe that people are past sexual discrimination. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there still is sexual discrimination in companies. It’s a tough thing to quantify, unless you can find documents from Walmart executives stating that they are going to pay women less and that they have some type of limit on how many women they can promote. It seems like it will be a hard thing to prove in court.

  2. chelseahoedl permalink
    April 6, 2011 3:42 PM

    I agree with you that Mill would support the women workers of Walmart in voicing their opinions. Regardless of how they are being treated, their ideas on the matter are necessary in coming to any sort of conclusion with regards to women and the work force. If these workers who feel that they are being mistreated in comparison to their male counterparts remain silent, then they are not upholding their duty to the society.

    As Mill suggests, it is important that all opinions are shared whether they be right or wrong. Wrong opinions are equally as important as correct ones because in the end it gives strength to the truth. If the women working at Walmart are mistaken, and they are not actually being discriminated against, their protests are still of value because it forces the situation to be questioned. There is no harm in testing a truth and so these women that feel they have been wronged are doing their duty to society and to women workers by stating their opinion to the public.

  3. Josh Platko permalink
    April 6, 2011 5:10 PM

    Mill would definatley be proud of Betty standing up for all the womens rights and all the other female employers associated with Wal-Mart. It is really interesting to hear this news to me, because we all know how women rights have been growing exponentially over the past decades. I thought us as a society moved on, and were at a place of realtivley close equality. Those in charge at Wal-Mart would most likely get an earful from Mill, just as you said. He wants women treated fairly, how they should be. Thank goodness for Betty because shes voicing her opinion. Even if she gets ruled down, she still made her point. We can learn from her if shes wrong, or all become upset with Wal-Mart if she wins the court case. Which we can only hope will get us back to a state of equality between all genders in the work place.

  4. Anna Gwiazdowski permalink
    April 6, 2011 7:31 PM

    I do agree with you that Mill would take issue with Walmart’s discrimination. As the Professor talked about in class today, Mill believed in the emancipation of economics, that “careers [should be] open to talents.” If there is sufficient evidence, the Supreme Court should favor in the case of the 6 women, but you said the Supreme Court is trying to figure out if 1.5 million women can file a class action lawsuit. My question is, have all of these women stepped forward and voiced that discrimination? In your picture there were other signs besides “Walmart is Anti-Woman” including “Walmart ruins small businesses” and one voicing displeasure about Walmart importing lots of goods from China. So I will qualify my first sentence: I do agree with you that Mill would take issue with Walmart’s discrimination, but is this discrimination truly a company wide thing? What evidence besides the voices of these women are there? I don’t doubt that discrimination does occur, but how much proof do these 6 women actually have? I can’t believe they spoke to all 1.5 million plus female Walmart employees. However, that being said, you are absolutely right that MIill would have a problem with any sort of discrimination in the workplace.

  5. Valerie Van Hulle permalink
    April 7, 2011 1:44 PM

    I think that Mill would approve of Duke’s challenge of the standing of women in the Walmart corporation.
    Mill states, ” the opinion in favour of the present system, which entirely subordinates the weaker sex to the stronger, rests upon theory only; for there never has been trial made of any other” (654).
    If Duke sees inequality within her workplace, she should be free to address her repressors.
    Although Duke is free to challenge Walmart, she must remember Mill’s other argument, that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. While Mill might applaud Duke’s ambition to challenge inequality, he might find fault in her lack of ability to address a “burden of proof”.

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