Business - Technical Writing Term Paper

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Business - Technical Writing

The impact of discrimination scandals on Wal-Mart's image and suggestions for improving the company's reputation


The present report has been ordered by M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's Executive Vice President of People Division, for assessing the impact that the problems related to discrimination against women have had on the corporate image. The analysis was ordered on May 12, 2007 and will be submitted on July 12, 2007, during a meeting reuniting all the HR directors and senior officers.

I am a Human Resources and Public Relations consultant who graduated from the Faculty of Economic Sciences (within the framework of the Human Resources Management specialization) and completed a post-university course on Communication and PR. Besides the theoretical notions I have achieved in these two fields, I also take pride in a significant practical background gained as a partner in the Accenture consulting company.

Purpose and scope

The purpose of this report is to review all the issues regarding discrimination against women that have tarnished Wal-Mart's image, the measures taken by the U.S. corporation in response to them, their effectiveness and the extent to which they succeeded in changing the public's perception of the company's attitude in terms of gender problems.

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On the other hand, as a result of the inadvertencies discovered after thoroughly analyzing the aspects mentioned above, the present report will also suggest the adequate courses of action aimed at removing the incongruities found.

Term Paper on Business - Technical Writing the Impact of Assignment

As for the complexity of the analysis, I should mention that my conclusions will be drawn after making an inventory of the findings emphasized by the previous authorized reports and reviewing the corresponding measures implemented by the HR department. Consequently, the fact sheet will delve into both the problems that have been already identified and the actions taken by Wal-Mart for touching upon them in order to assess their effectiveness. Therefore, although the report will involve employees, it will mainly rely on the background information on discrimination against women existing so far and the details provided by Wal-Mart's HR specialists with reference to their attempts to mold the company's policies over the analysts ' findings and suggestions.


Wal-Mart's background in terms of gender bias has undergone numerous convulsions which have often taken the form of lawsuits. In this context, one could mention the Dukes vs. Wal-Mart suit, a case representing the most significant "employment discrimination class action suit in American History" (, Wal-Mart's negative fame has also been fuelled by lawsuits touching upon other forms of discrimination such as harassment and pregnancy related issues. Under these circumstances, one could invoke the 2002 Mauldin vs. Wal-Mart stores case (

Additionally, the statistical analysis carried out by PhD Richard Drogin in 2003 represents prominent evidence proving the considerable gap between women and men.

Consequently, gender bias is a real fact and not an invention belonging to the claimants who proceeded against Wal-Mart. Despite not being proud to receive such a blow in the corporate reputation, the U.S. company has implicitly admitted its sins by striving to remediate its gender-biased policies. Yet, it appears that the measures it has taken haven't had the desired outcome as discrimination against women continues to be tackled when analyzing statistical data or job postings.

Hence, the American company is confronted with a new impasse: its measures implemented for bridging the gap between men and women are ineffective. Even though these have succeeded in softening its image in the eyes of the public, inadvertencies continue to exist.

Thus, besides explaining the historical trajectory that the company has followed in terms of discrimination, the present report aims at both delving into the causes determining the new policies' failure and offering suggestions for their removal.

Sources and methods

Given its theme, my report mainly relies on secondary sources which provide an accurate snapshot of the discrimination issues encountered by the organization. Therefore, I have chosen two representative reports: Richard Drogin's Statistical analysis of gender patterns in Wal-Mart workforce (2003) and Betty vs. Goliath, a 2006 report published by Wal-MartWatch.

Moreover, I used as primary sources the policies implemented by Wal-Mart's HR department (which were provided by the executive president of the people division) and the discussions of a focus group encompassing four Wal-Mart HR specialists and six women employees. The conversation of the focus group members was mediated by me in order to offer each participant the opportunity to speak and express his/her opinions or dissatisfactions. The main discussion themes I chose were: how employees and HR specialists perceived the gender bias related issues between 1996 and 2004, what Wal-Mart had done for removing the gender gap and what employees thought about the new policies (in other words, the debate asked whether discrimination still existed and, if yes, under what obvious or hidden forms it could have been identified).

In this context, I should also like to mention that all the participants invited at the exercise had been working at Wal-Mart for at least 15 years. Therefore, they had witnessed both the discrimination era and the actions taken for its removal and were able to express complete opinions and provide pertinent comparisons molded over the "before and after" pattern.

For making sure that not a single detail was overlooked, I video recorded all the discussions of the focus group. Thus, before writing this report, I watched the tapes and added all the information that wasn't written down in my bloc notes.


As a result of the methods and data sources used, two major limitations appear to be possible.

On the one hand, any error comprised by the two reports that I have analyzed could be taken as a real fact and lead to a wrong or unnecessary course of action. Yet, the fact that the two reports were carried out by experts and the overlapping of their findings (which offer a coherent and unitary version of the situation) make this limitation quite improbable.

On the other hand, the fact that women employees were invited to express their opinions in front of Wal-Mart's HR specialists could have made them occult some information for fear of losing their jobs. Still, at the beginning of each discussion session, I stated loud and clear that participants would not undergo any repercussions for their points-of-view and that the only purpose of the study was an accurate snapshot analysis of discrimination-related issues. Consequently, democratically expressing perceptions, dissatisfactions or suggestions was to their own good.

For touching upon the aspects displayed above and for achieving the goal of the analysis, my report covers the following major topics: A review of discrimination-related issues and the measures taken for their removal, How can Wal-Mart make its actions really effective?, Conclusions and recommendations.

2. A review of discrimination-related issues and the measures taken for their removal (Explanations and statistical evidence)

For getting a clear picture of the discrimination scandals that Wal-Mart had to cope with and for pertinently assessing the dimension of the corporate image damages, I will begin by summarizing the findings of the two key reports Betty vs. Goliath ( and Drogin's statistical analysis (2003):

the number of women decreases as one climbs the organizational hierarchy; for instance, in 2001, the highest rank in the hourly supervisory department (support manager) was held by 45.1% women and 54.9% men even though the number of women was four times higher than the number of men (see appendix, figure 1) when delving into top salaried positions, the researchers found that Assistant managers comprised 37.6% women and 62.4% men, Co-managers encompassed 21.9% women and 78.1% men while Store managers relied on 15.5% women and 84.5% men (see appendix, figure 2) women have hourly jobs which are not well paid (65%) rather than salaried positions which are better paid (33%) (see appendix, figure 3) the average time necessary for becoming assistant manager amounts to 4.38 years for women and 2.86 for men the total sum of money paid to women between 1996 and 2001 was 5 to 15% less than the one paid to men between 1996 and 2001, women holding hourly jobs earned 6-7% less than men having similar positions while salaried women employees were paid 12.6% less than their male colleagues in 2001, the Duke vs. Wal-Mart case in which a female employee accused the American company for not allowing her to attend training courses, reducing the hourly wage and not informing her about promotions, dragged the enterprise into an undesired record - the largest class action suit in the U.S.A.; the media coverage was tremendous and this brought a quasi-permanent stain on its reputation.

In response to the findings above, Wal-Mart made the following changes:

it created a diversity office in 2003 for handling discrimination problems and implementing a strategy providing equal opportunities to men and women

15% of the bonuses received by mangers were offered if these had achieved diversity goals all new employees received the same salary/wage it asked the HR department to issue reports on a regular basis for emphasizing the improvement obtained (

3. How can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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