With Women at the Helm, CSR Initiatives Increase

Nov. 23, 2011
When more women are represented in senior leadership roles, their companies tend to exhibit greater – and higher quality – corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, a new study has found.

Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s a Matter of Sustainability,” a study conducted by researchers at Catalyst and Harvard Business School (HBS), also suggests that these companies, on average, financially outperform companies with fewer women in senior leadership roles.

“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, development, Catalyst. “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.”

Other studies have shown that women leaders may bring diverse perspectives on fairness and the distribution of resources to donation decisions, which may in turn broaden a company’s commitment to CSR and increase its levels of charitable giving.

A Matter of Sustainability

This study found 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 roles.

Even after controlling for key factors that might influence donation levels, such as a company’s overall financial performance, size and industry, the presence of women leaders still had a significant positive impact on a company’s levels of giving.

The study found:

· 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. Each additional female board director represented an increase of 2.3 million dollars.
· Companies with 25 percent 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. For each percentage point increase in women corporate officers, yearly donations increased by 5.7 million dollars.

This research also indicates that companies with more women leaders not only are more committed, on average, to corporate social responsibility, but they also may be better at it, which could help companies develop higher-quality CSR initiatives. Leaders who highlight gender issues in CSR strategies often position their organizations for sustained growth – a payoff that extends from the company to communities and to broader society.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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