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No CSR Without Women?

Having visited the Green Week, I met a lot of people and was able to get lots of information about fair-trade, innovations, sustainability, environmental concerns and so on. I could listen to presentations and talk to people on my own. One sentence I was told was that CSR would be “more a feminine thing”.

Is there some truth in it? Or is it just a dumb way of getting done with CSR?

Ground Line

According to a study from Catalyst and Harvard Business School (HBS), there is a strong correlation between the quantity of women on boards and in executive management and the degree of corporate social responsibility.

Companies with a higher number of women in the upper hierarchy level also have higher level of corporate philanthropy and more potential for sustainable growth, the study goes on.

Anabel Pérez (Catalyst) commented: “Companies are realizing that advancing more women to senior leadership roles has many benefits, including increased financial performance and sustainability.”

A contradicting assumption is offered by management-issues.com :

Considering women to be better leaders than men would over-emphasize feminine relationship-building skills to the exclusion of masculine competitive instincts. The truth falls somewhere in the middle, as with most either-or pendulum swings.

“In any case, this issue should focus, not on men versus women, but on organizational culture. At that level, a mixture of feminine and masculine traits are required. But there is no doubt that we are in the midst of an unstoppable shift to more feminine cultures.”

Status Quo

The share of women working at management level is still very small. In Germany, the share is around 10 %; the comparable share in the USA is around 17.5 %.

What is disturbing is the smallness of the increase of the share of women in top management and the decline by 2.3 % in the number of women in middle management since 1995 in medium-sized companies in Germany.

This is of particular importance, as

  • in 2007, the average donations of companies with three or more women directors were 28 times higher than those of companies with no women directors.
  • Between 1997 and 2007, companies with more women board directors donated significantly more funds than did companies with fewer women—with each additional woman board director representing an increase of 2.3 million dollars.
  • Companies with 25% or more women corporate officers in 2007 made annual contributions that were 13 times higher than those made by companies with zero women corporate officers.
  • 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 dollars.

What do women bring to the table?
“People consider men to be agentic, possessing traits such as ambition, confidence, self-sufficiency dominance, and assertiveness, whereas they consider women to be communal, possessing traits such as kindness, helpfulness, concern for others, warmth and gentleness.”  – Andrea Learned

There are nine important facets of leadership behavior    (McKinsey)

  • Participative decision making
  • Role model
  • Inspiration
  • Expectations and rewards
  • People development
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Efficient communication
  • Individualistic decision making
  • Control and corrective action
  • Passive management by exception
  • Laissez-faire

of which women apply five more frequently than men ( the first five) and thus contribute to stronger organizational performance.

Women on boards assures that inclusive and diverse boards are more likely to be effective boards, better able to understand their customers and stakeholders and to benefit from fresh perspectives, new ideas, vigorous challenge and broad experience,  which,  in turn leads to better decision making.

Companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals

  •  42% higher return in sales
  • 66% higher return on invested capital
  • 53% higher return on equity.

What to do with this information?

As management-issues.com said- the truth lies in the golden mean. Therefore, it is desirable to develop a complementarity and diversity of behaviors as competitive advantage, collaboration builder and consumer influencer.

“It is only when there is a critical mass of women who use those behaviors that are complementary to men’s that performance significantly increases”. – CEO of a media group- “While left hemisphere contributions are important, they need to be made in the service of something that only the right hemisphere can bring in order to be constructive.”

CSR reflects the integration of values and social engagement into what is known – traditional ways of doing business.  In other words, the relational lends purpose to the straightforward.

The goal therefore should be to increase the appearance of women in higher hierarchy levels and to foster the cooperation between the two genders towards common business targets.

It is also worth thinking about how this can benefit the organization across other contexts.

Where do we go?


Top business organizations are already making efforts to promote women in every sphere of activities.

IBM, for example, has recently launched leadership programs for women in areas that usually are dominated by males, as e.g. technology and sales. The objective is to create the most efficient set of personal traits that can add value to the business operations.

Deutsche Telekom, predicted to raise the number of women in senior and middle management to 30 percent by the end of 2015, from 12 percent today, becoming the first member of the DAX 30 index of blue-chip German companies to introduce gender quotas.

Whereas this seems to be very promising, according to the guardian,  most women aspiring to senior management positions believe the glass ceiling to career progression still exists.

What do you think? 

Will women of our generation will make it to the top?

Or will they be hindered by the rigid character of rude business?





Leave a comment


  1. tennisanika

     /  January 30, 2012

    hi viola:
    to answer your question, Yes, I think women of our generation will make it to the top. However, it might be only a tiny little number of women achieving this in the near future, nevertheless there will be definitely more women in top management positions, I reckon. Just take gender mainstreaming. More and more organizations are talking about it and start taking actions. Nevertheless, it’s a very slow development but I think already having more and more people talking about, is a very important step. Here you can read on gender policies taken on by IDB. Don’t know what IDB is ? go, and have a read! 😉 http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=151636:gender-policy-at-idb&catid=6:daily-columns&Itemid=6
    If even the islamic organizations are considering to overcome gender inequalities, I think we’re not that far anymore .
    This might sound very excited but I am well aware of the facts you mentioned and also concerned. Isn’t it interesting that the top 5 criteria you listed apply rather to women than to men but still women did not have the power to prove their capability because probably n°9 is a stronger one than the top 5. Another VERY interesting blogpost (and loads of commenting going on on that one) is this one : http://isteve.blogspot.com/2011/06/walmart-discriminates-against-women.html
    when I read this, I almost lose all the excitement and wonder if there are a lot more of companies like this one. And Waltmart is maybe only the largest one (in the U.S.)
    Definitely a lot to discuss about and I appreciate you chose that topic and came up with some facts. but not the simple talking “women should become leaders.because!” But you gave numbers, which to me is sort of a proof that it is like people say. but now we are able to see and understand better what so many are talking about .

  2. very good points you made clear! The information you offered about Gender policy at IDB is totally interesting, pleasant and definitely encouraging, whereas the walmart-position shocked me. There’s not much to say about it.
    As I could follow your way of commenting also on other blogs than mine, I want to tell you in general that I really appreciate your ambition and the investigations you do off your own bat to the topic you are commenting on. This shows a lot respect towards the work of others, your capacity to enthusiasm and the broad spectrum of your interests.
    It offers material to discuss and talk about and enable even the author of the post himself to have an aha-effect after all the research he/she did.
    Thank you 🙂

  3. Pia

     /  February 8, 2012

    Viola, as I already told you in class, I love that post 🙂 it catches up attention immediately because of the headline plus you do not miss to mention any aspect of the subject. You compare numbers, you are realistic, pessimistic and optimistic at once. Here is what I think could be interesting in your next post: http://www.bmfsfj.de/BMFSFJ/gleichstellung,did=167516.html The Women on Board Index 🙂 it shows how many women are on board in a company and could become an issue in the next years.

  4. Hey Viola,
    I think that if somebody is really talented and hard working it does not madder if you are male or female. Fact is that Women are needed for reproduction. So I think everybody should have the possibility to become a top manager but I do not think that it should be the goal of the majority of all females.
    So posts like this are the same as women’s parking areas, nice but contra productive.
    Because if a company really is better off with women as top managers it will hire more women, if not it won’t. That’s basically C. Darwin’s idea and I think there is no need saying “hire women and you are going to gain more profits”.

  5. Hey Lasse
    although I have to admit that your comment shows that you are pretty unimpressed of the facts that can be given about women on board and that you ignored such information, I appreciate your opinion as it is a classical example of what women expect to be the “typical men’s point of view”.
    Additionally, it again shows how rough business is as there is no such thing as a free lunch.
    We will see how things will develop and maybe I will come back to you later 😉

  6. Nico

     /  February 11, 2012

    Hey Viola,
    your blog posts topic is simply great. The facts really create some fear in some males brain. I think that our generation has and will set cornerstone for a further development we can not think about today. But the development of women can not be denied. It starts in primary school. Girls are being encouraged differently than boys are. Due to a lack of male primary school teachers. I have a strict opinion about that. Boys are not being encouraged enough. There is too much female influence in a young boys life. Mama, teacher, mama. Dads working all day long. In a lot of cases there isn’t even a dad around. It’s just women then. Where are the right rolemodels? Boys need some kind of father figure.
    Maybe it is about time that the games rules change a little bit.
    I am convinced that women will take over the planet and will direct mens actions in a more offensive way than today.
    Nevertheless, women always had influence on men. This will never ever change.
    Question to you: Do you think the fights over natural resources and wars in general will decrease with women controlling daily business?


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