Saïd Business School to lead study into the effectiveness of Walmart’s ‘Empowering Women Together’ initiative

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Walmart has commissioned an independent, global study into the effectiveness of its Empowering Women Together initiative (EWT) from a team of researchers led by Professor Linda Scott at Saїd Business School, University of Oxford.

The research itself will be ground-breaking: no work has yet been done that analyses the women’s economy as a complex interaction between business-building, employment opportunities, and purchase patterns, all among women.

Launched in 2011, Walmart began a major global initiative to help empower women economically with a specific commitment to integrate them into the company’s supply chain. The EWT programme is intended to provide market access and incubate women-owned businesses—from very small to medium-sized enterprises—by helping them scale up for selling to Walmart’s large customer base. Most of the products are primarily sold through the EWT portal on the Walmart website; however, the first of the EWT suppliers has just graduated to store distribution and it is hoped many more will do so over time.

The EWT team identifies the women-owned businesses, often working through other companies specialized in developing world markets, and then assists during the processes of design, production, logistics and marketing to draw goods from around the world into the Walmart supply chain. ‘The challenges of orchestrating the production and movement of these goods are considerable,’ remarks Professor Scott, ‘Several of these businesses are in places where the infrastructure itself is poorly developed, leading to unexpected disconnects of all sorts. I have been impressed so far by the determination of everyone in this programme, from the EWT team at Walmart to employees in the women’s businesses, to make it work.’

‘In recent years there has been a growing realisation that increasing women’s incomes has profound positive effects on a wide range of indicators from fertility, to disease burdens, to national competitiveness. So, the obstacles are great, but the goal is worth the effort,’ said Professor Linda Scott.

Scott points out that several major corporations have developed programmes to assist women as entrepreneurs, but the Walmart effort represents a major landmark. ‘Because Walmart draws its offerings from all kinds of supply chains—from fisheries to agriculture to crafts and more—the potential for this initiative to help women, if it can be made to work, is historic. And, since this is a holistic system, the research itself will be ground-breaking: no work has yet been done that analyses the women’s economy as a complex interaction between business-building, employment opportunities, and purchase patterns, all among women, especially in the context of engagement with a major corporation,’ added Professor Scott.

Scott cautions that the programme is still very much in its early growth stages, and welcomes the chance to understand its development and impact from the start. ‘We have already found that the usual expectations for measurement are going to need substantial augmentation. There is a lot of variability and the outcomes are extremely complex. The challenge is to carefully build a system that will reliably measure the impact of this unique and important programme, paying attention to the interactions among all the populations.’

The preparatory work for the project began in Autumn 2013, in which the research team interviewed people throughout the Walmart system to understand the requisites on the initiating side of the effort. The team is now focusing on the system participants in North America and East Africa and will visit each supplier in those regions by August 2014, designing and testing measures along the way. In the second year, the team expects to fan out to reach suppliers in Latin America and Asia.

The team will publish two case studies for public dissemination during 2014, one on the Women’s Bean Project in Denver, USA, and one on Katchy Kollections in Nairobi, Kenya. ‘We have already done the work in these two sites and are currently comparing the data before we begin to write. Each of these businesses operates under vastly different conditions and yet there are some surprising similarities. All of this is a challenge to develop a measurement metric which is appropriate for the full range of organisations involved in the system.’

Professor Scott will also be blogging about the project as it unfolds, ‘Our aim is to be as transparent about the project as possible. This study is an independent and rigorous academic research project, not a consulting job, and we expect that what we learn will be important for policy makers, Walmart, and other corporations undertaking similar initiatives. Walmart is keen to refine the EWT programme based on the study findings that impact long term viability, and we want to make the “lessons learned” widely available.’

Researchers will explore the demands of the Walmart system on the entrepreneurial organisations relating to issues such as ethical standards, financial prerequisites, staffing and volume requirements, alongside its positive contributions to factors such as business strength; the cultural and operational setting for the entrepreneurs and their employees; the role of aggregators who are stepping in to shepherd new entrepreneurs through the Walmart process; and the acceptance of the programme by Walmart customers.

For further information, or to speak with Professor Linda Scott or a Walmart representative, please contact the Press Office at Saїd Business School:

Clare Fisher, Head of Public Relations, Saïd Business School
Mobile: +44 (0) 7912 771090; Tel: 01865 288968
Email: clare.fisher(at)sbs(dot)ox(dot)ac(dot)uk

Josie Powell, Press Officer, Saïd Business School
Mobile +44 (0)7711 387215, Tel: +44 (0) 1865 288403
Email: josie.powell(at)sbs(dot)ox(dot)ac(dot)uk or pressoffice(at)sbs(dot)ox(dot)ac(dot)uk

Notes to editors
1         About Saïd Business School
Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a vibrant and innovative business school, but yet deeply embedded in an 800 year old world-class university. We create programmes and ideas that have global impact. We educate people for successful business careers, and as a community seek to tackle world-scale problems. We deliver cutting-edge programmes and ground-breaking research that transform individuals, organisations, business practice, and society. We seek to be a world-class business school community, embedded in a world-class University, tackling world-scale problems.

In the Financial Times European Business School ranking (Dec 2013) Saïd is ranked 12th. It is ranked 13th worldwide in the FT’s combined ranking of Executive Education programmes (May 2013) and 24th in the world in the FT ranking of MBA programmes (Jan 2013). The MBA is ranked 5th in Businessweek’s full time MBA ranking outside the USA (Nov 2012) and is ranked 5th among the top non-US Business Schools by Forbes magazine (Sep 2013). The Executive MBA is ranked 23rd worldwide in the FT’s ranking of EMBAs (Oct 2013). The Oxford MSc in Financial Economics is ranked 6th in the world in the FT ranking of Masters in Finance programmes (Jun 2013). In the UK university league tables it is ranked first of all UK universities for undergraduate business and management in The Guardian (Jun 2013) and has ranked first in nine of the last ten years in The Times (Sept 2013). For more information, see

2    Professor Linda Scott

3    About the research project
The team includes Professor Linda Scott, Catherine Dolan, and Laurel Steinfeld.

4    About Empowering Women Together


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