FEMINIST (RE) INTERPRETATION OF CSR ACTIVITIES

Gender diversity is an essential component that adds value to a company’s decision-making process, affecting its financial performance. Despite an increase in female literacy rates, gender inequality is still prevalent across the globe. Women’s participation in the labor force is meager. According to the SIGI (Social Institutions and Gender Index), which measures discriminatory laws, social norms, and practices, India ranks 79th among 120 countries across the globe. Female foeticide, preference of male heirs, early marriage of girls, female restriction on financial resources, lack of educational opportunities, etc, are prevalent in India. In this paper, Theodora Cecilia Gomes suggests a few Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies to combat gender-based discrimination in the workplace.

Corporate Social Responsibility

‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ was first coined by American Economist Howard Bowen in 1953. On 1 April 2014, India became the first country to make CSR mandatory. Under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, all companies are required to spend a minimum of 2% of their profits over the past three years on CSR activities. CSR spans across four areas – economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic. 

● Economic – A company must be financially stable and be economically profitable

● Legal – A company must have fair business practices and obey the laws and rules

● Ethical – A company must be ethically responsible and protect the stakeholder’s moral rights

● Philanthropic – A company must perform philanthropic activities to contribute to societal progress as well as enhance its reputation

Fig. Four areas of CSR
Fig. Four areas of CSR

CSR Strategies to curb gender discrimination

The basic premise of CSR states that companies must also be held accountable for their non-economic consequences. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2000) focuses on creating a socially responsible corporate organization. CSR is thus not an option but instead as a compulsory philanthropic act. 

Women are subjected to specific institutional and systemic barriers in their workplace. These patterns of discrimination are embedded in their daily lives. Gender bias is a global phenomenon that significantly impacts corporate organizations. Women are not given equal access to job opportunities like men. Even when they are hired, they are mistreated and paid low salaries. They are subject to sexual harassment and violence and are generally excluded from the company’s decision-making process. Women’s promotion is usually delayed due to the societal stigma that women are under-performers and cannot balance their work and domestic duties. They are prohibited from climbing up the corporate ladder to reach the top management positions in a company. This phenomenon is known as the “glass ceiling.” This invisible barrier hinders women from being a member of the board or top managerial positions.

FEMINIST (RE) INTERPRETATION OF CSR ACTIVITIES
STRANDS OF FEMINISMFEMINIST PERSPECTIVESUGGESTED CSR STRATEGIES  
  Liberal Feminism    It began around the early 19th and 20th centuries with the emergence of the first wave of feminism. It focuses on integrating women into the socio-economic structure of society and providing them with equal access to educational opportunities, voting rights, employment, etc.  Women must be given equal access to job opportunities as men. They must receive equal pay and incentives, be promoted based on their performance and be placed in top managerial positions in the organization.
  Radical Feminism    It began around the early 1960s with the emergence of the second wave of feminism. It focuses on the patriarchal setup of capitalist society and aims to free women from traditional gender roles.    Hegemonic masculinity has become institutionalized. We must dismantle patriarchal organizations and address systemic gendered issues. Organizations must set up separate committees or wings for women’s empowerment, and knowledge must be explicitly generated targeted towards them.
  Socialist Feminism    It is grounded in Marxist theory and believes that in to achieve gender equality, private property must be abolished and women must be paid for their domestic labour.    Companies must engage in fair trade practices and improve their labor policies. Issues faced by women must be addressed by giving them maternity and menstrual leaves, medical benefits, creches in office, etc. 
  Postcolonial Feminism    It began around the 1980s and focused on decolonizing the feminist narrative. It includes women’s voices from the global south and aims to look beyond Western perceptions of globalization and mainstream white feminism.  Organizations must hire women from marginalized sections such as lower caste/class/race, minority communities, etc. The Western notion of ‘development’ must be deconstructed, and companies must focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).
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Although various factors contribute to gender inequality in the corporate world, CSR can be used as a means to discard gender discrimination. Organizations must alter their policies and practices to include the experiences of women. Managers must be trained to promote gender diversity by recruiting and retaining female employees from different social locations. Companies must organize workshops and training sessions to educate women about their rights and privileges as a part of their CSR programs. Adequate measures must be taken to provide a work-life balance for women, such as flexible working hours, paid leaves, work-from-home options etc. CSR funds must be used for facilitating the career advancement of female employees from the grassroots level as women are an essential composition of human resources as they form nearly half of the global population and women’s empowerment would ultimately lead to the overall development and profitability of companies.

References

Amorelli, Maria-Florencia. Trends in the dynamic evolution of board gender diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility. 2021.

Kaur, Parminder. Corporate Social Responsibility and Gender in the workplace. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention. Volume 2. Issue 11. November 2013.

Moir, Lance. What do we mean by Corporate Social Responsibility? 2001.

Soares, Rachel. Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s a matter of sustainability. Catalyst Report. 2011.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Corporate Social Responsibility: Making good business sense. Geneva. 2000.


Theodora Cecilia Gomes, a Sociology PhD Scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, has submitted her essay for the 2023 Social Sciences Competition.

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