Gender as a Catalyst for Corporate Reform
In Beate Sjåfjell and Christopher M. Bruner (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Corporate Law, Corporate Governance and Sustainability (Cambridge University Press, 2019), Chapter 44.
Posted: 8 May 2019 Last revised: 15 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 6, 2019
Women have become increasingly central to initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable development and changing corporate practice. Global gender empowerment projects have allowed corporations to expand into new markets, while increasing the number of female leaders is thought to bring business advantages. These initiatives reveal a preoccupation with offering women more opportunities to participate in shareholder-centric corporate life but fail to address the real reason for women’s exclusion and subordination within companies: deep-seated structural barriers and biases. This Chapter explores how gender might be a catalyst for change towards sustainability. It suggests three reforms: changing conceptions of the ideal corporate worker to recognise companies’ dependence on unpaid caring labour; recognising how the process of globalisation is creating fresh patterns of inequality; and replacing the social norm of shareholder primacy with a corporate purpose based around principles of proportionality that may act in pursuit of strong sustainability.
Keywords: gender, equality, diversity, shareholder primacy, corporate purpose
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