Written by Heather Burke Wednesday, January 04 2012A new joint-study released by Catalyst and Harvard Business School reveals a positive correlation between gender-diverse leadership and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The report, Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s a Matter of Sustainability, compares the average philanthropic donations of Fortune 500 Companies in 2007 based on varied levels of women's representation on corporate boards and in corporate officer positions.
For that year, when women's inclusion on a company’s board of directors increased from zero to three or more, annual philanthropic contributions increased by a factor of 28. A company with 25 percent or more women in corporate officer positions boasted philanthropic contributions 13 times higher than companies with no women officers. In other words, every woman added to a corporate board drives annual philanthropic giving up by $2.3 million and each percentage point increase in the number of women in corporate officer leadership positions increases giving by $5.7 million.
Catalyst has shown in past studies that gender-inclusive leadership is a key driver for financial performance. This new study shows that companies who promote greater gender diversity at top leadership levels notably increase the breadth and quality of a their CSR initiatives, as well as potential for sustaining growth over time. The Coca-Cola’s Company’s September launch of its 5 BY 20 campaign is an example of how a gender-sensitive CSR campaign has the potential to bring benefits to both corporations and society.
The World Economic Forum released in November its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report. The sixth in a series of annual reports, the 2011 Index measures the performance of 134 countries on gender-equality by looking at gender disparities in access to resources and opportunity over time along economic, political, education and health-based indicators. Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden maintain top rankings closing over 80 percent of their gender gaps, with the U.S. ranked , and Mali, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen taking the lowest rankings with around 50 percent of their gender-gaps yet to close.
New quota requirements in Europe are placing more women at key leadership levels reports Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI), a non-profit research organization on women directors. In its latest report, CWDI examines the gender-diversity on corporate boards of Fortune Global 200 Companies. In Europe, Norway, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and Belgium currently uphold government-issued quotas mandating the number of seats reserved for women on corporate boards. France and Italy are showing strong gains in women’s boardroom representation with women directors comprising 20.1 percent and 9.2 percent of seats on corporate boards respectively.
Political Shifts Carry Potential and Worry for Women’s Advancement
Women played instrumental roles in the democratic movement and revolutions of the Arab Spring and are now organizing to ensure that they are represented in the transitional political processes they helped create.
Tunisia: Will Women be Included in New Constitution
In the birthplace of the Arab Spring, many secular Tunisians worry that gains for women’s rights under ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime will be lost now that Islamist party Ennahda holds a majority in the newly elected Constitutional Assembly. Outside the assembly’s first meeting on Nov. 22in Tunis, mixed-interest protests erupted calling for women’s representation in government to reform in Tunisia’s relationship with Qatar. Constitutional Assembly member and Ennahda candidate Souad Abderrahim was mobbed by protesters outside of Parliament for her recent remarks denigrating single mothers and vowing to reduce their status under the law. In light of Aberrahim’s remarks – that she later refined – many feel that Abderrahim, who is well-educated and doesn’t wear a headscarf, represents a false promise in Ennahda’s campaign to safeguard women’s rights in the new government.
Morocco: Proposed Constitution and Women’s Rights Morocco’s new constitution outlines among its 180 articles increased social, cultural, economic and environmental rights for women. Following waves of unprecedented pro-democracy protests, the Nov. 25 parliamentary elections tested whether true reform and gains for women’s rights outlined in the constitution would be upheld by law. The Islamist Justice and Development Party won the majority of the 395 open seats, 60 of which were reserved for women. The PJD has a history of progressive stances on the status of women under Morocco’s family legal code. Some analysts believe the PJD will prove a strong supporter of reform and stability in the new coalition government, which is still forming. Morocco’s voters are showing signs of growing skepticism and disapproval of the government, however, with a voter turnout of just slightly over 45 percent.
Libya: Status of Women After Fall of Gaddafi
Women organized and positioned themselves for power throughout Libya’s revolution. Many hoped these gains would transform women’s role in Libyan society following the fall of Gaddafi. However, as the 24 men who make up Libya’s National Transitional Council were sworn into office on Nov. 24, women’s concerns about their lack of representation in the transitional government persisted. More than 60 women gathered outside the office of Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib to demand the government acknowledge and aid women who were systematically raped during the country’s civil war. Days after Gaddafi was captured and killed, interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil reiterated the reinvigoration of polygamy for men as a feature of his vision new era of governance based on Sharia – a worrisome sign for the future of women’s rights in Libya. Women had a chance to confront the National Transitional Council on the status of women’s rights in the new government during the Council’s surprise visit at Libya’s first women’s rights conference.
Egypt: Will Democratic Elections Bring New Voice to Women
As catalysts of the Egyptian uprising, many young women won a renewed understanding of their role in Egyptian society and discovered the power to make transformations in their own lives through the revolution. On Nov. 28 Egyptians cast their vote in the country’s first round of democratically-held elections in decades, an election many women view as an opportunity to extend the equality they witnessed alongside men during the revolution. Others fear that the conservative Islamist groups emerging as frontrunners in both rounds of parliamentary elections will reverse any gains made for women under Mubarak. Only one cabinet seat was reserved for women, and a special committee for women’s advancement feels largely like an afterthought to many women who are calling for increased gender-equality in the new government.
The abuse of women under the interim military council gained visibility late November when Samira Ibrahim Mohamed brought a case against the council, claiming that she was tortured and forced to undergo virginity tests during her detention following protests earlier this year. The case has been postponed twice. Mohamed is one of about 17 girls subjected to forced virginity tests among other forms of abuse during detention by Egyptian security forces.
Heather Burke has more than eight years experience working with partners in the public and private sectors to promote women’s empowerment and develop innovative investment strategies for community development. She has worked in 12 countries on initiatives spanning women's and girls’ leadership, education, income generation, social entrepreneurship, public health, food security, political participation, and environmental conservation. She is a social venture consultant based outside of Washington, D.C.