PHILLIPS CREDITS PERFORMANCE

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The case of Laura Phillips provides a contrast to recent stories of gender discrimination at Wal-Mart Stores that have been widely reported.She was promoted two months ago to vice president-divisional merchandise manager of dry grocery here. Phillips is just shy of 30 years old and is a young mother. She has experienced no barriers to advancement at Wal-Mart, she said. The company

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The case of Laura Phillips provides a contrast to recent stories of gender discrimination at Wal-Mart Stores that have been widely reported.

She was promoted two months ago to vice president-divisional merchandise manager of dry grocery here. Phillips is just shy of 30 years old and is a young mother. She has experienced no barriers to advancement at Wal-Mart, she said. The company is facing a potential class-action lawsuit possibly involving 1.6 million women on charges of gender discrimination.

Ten years ago, Phillips was drafted as a Wal-Mart intern while in college and worked at store level. "I was a finance major and I had such a good experience working in the store that I decided to continue to pursue a career with Wal-Mart," she said. Since then she has held various merchandising positions in toys, candy, cosmetics and fresh floral.

Phillips said her position was created because of the fast growth the company is experiencing in groceries. She said part of her success at Wal-Mart is because of growth. "Our company is about growth. We are promoting 9,000 hourly associates into salaried management positions just this year. We are rapidly expanding our supercenters, adding close to 300 stores this year. The growth is huge and internationally our growth is strong as well," she said.

Another contributing factor to Phillips' advancement is performance. "Our company rewards people for their performance. It's not about how long you've been in a position. It's how you are doing, what is your capacity and how you are performing in that position," she explained.

Phillips said her career has been aided by Wal-Mart's assistant management training and the educational resources available through the Sam Walton Development complex here, which offers business courses to employees.

Phillips added she is proud of the women leadership within the company. She pointed to Linda Dillman, chief information officer, as a good role model. Dillman was ranked No. 28th on Fortune Magazine's 50 most powerful women in American business last year.