What role do women play in corporate social responsibility – as a consumer, as a board member, as an employee? Three areas shine through.
If we look to some of the key tenets of corporate responsibility, we are likely to think of green (sustainability) compassion (philanthropy), and transparency (open, consistent and honest dialogue). These are areas in which women shine, and can also make tremendous contributions to corporations and other organizations.
“Companies are realizing that advancing more women to senior leadership roles has many benefits, including increased financial performance and sustainability,” said Anabel Pérez, Senior Vice President of Development at Catalyst, regarding the organization’s recent study Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility: It's a Matter of Sustainability. “As this study shows, inclusive leadership has a positive influence on the quantity and quality of an organization’s CSR initiatives. When business leadership includes women, society wins.”
Women and Green
When we think about creating sustainable organizations, why is it so important to include women and address imbalances?
In their book Women in Green, authors Kira Gould and Lance Hosey argued that women are more likely than men to support environmental causes through voting, activism and consumer choices. When surveyed, women consistently rate the environment as one of their greatest concerns.
Women clearly have a stake in the future of the environment and are taking action. Take Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, for example, who launched the Green Belt Movement, which has planted millions of trees in Kenya and transformed women into powerful advocates for their rights, good governance and democracy, and natural resource protection.
Habiba Sarabi, the governor of Bamiyan Province and the first female governor in Afghanistan, created her country's first national park, Band-e Amir, protecting 220 square miles of pristine lakes and limestone canyons. Her work has inspired local communities to join her environmental efforts.
Mary Mavanza from Tanzania has helped hundreds of Tanzanian women start environmentally sustainable businesses through microcredit loans and by providing training in accounting.
Women and Philanthropy
What's good for women is good for business and also for society. Researchers at Catalyst and Harvard Business School, who conducted the Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility study, tracked philanthropic donations in Fortune 500 companies from 1997 to 2007. According to their findings, companies with more women at the top may be better practitioners of corporate social responsibility.
Catalyst and HBS researchersfound that companies with more women board directors and corporate officers contributed significantly more charitable funds, on average, than companies with fewer or no women in senior positions. Companies with more women corporate officers donated significantly more funds between 1997 and 2007, and for each percentage point increase in women corporate officers, yearly donations increased by $5.7 million.