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More women makes for better Corporate Social Responsibility – says new research by Catalyst and Harvard

I’ve long suspected that there’s something special about women leaders and the heart and soul they bring to an organisation.  It’s different to the stereotypical leadership model; rather that just dollars and cents, I’ve noticed that many women directors and executives bring a strong sense of values to a business.  Now new research from Catalyst and Harvard Business School shows there is in fact something different about organisations that have more women leaders: they also have higher levels of corporate philanthropy that the authors translate as better corporate social responsibility.

If you’re interested in corporate social responsibility, this study is worth a look.  It specifically focuses on how women leaders might impact CSR, noting that a company committed to CSR acts as a good corporate citizen, expanding the definition of success beyond profit maximization to also consider the organization’s impact, both positive and negative, on the world.

The study focused on Fortune 500 companies and found that corporate philanthropy was 28 times higher in companies with gender diverse boardrooms (3 or more female directors), and 13 times higher in companies with gender diverse leadership teams (25% or more women corporate officers).

So what?  We know that many women – and Gen Ys of both genders – are increasingly attracted to the not for profit sector for the meaning and fulfillment it offers.  And I suspect many women – and Gen Ys of both genders – are also attracted to organisations that offer more meaningful community engagement to their employees. So understanding this relationship could be a good weapon in the war for talent.

Andrea Learned posted about this on The Sustainable Business Forum, posing an interesting question in response: “Do companies committed to CSR attract more diverse
leaders or… does having a more gender-diverse leadership lead to
increases in CSR?”

In her follow-on post, she probes further: “If studies like the one conducted by Catalyst and Harvard Business
School show that more
women on boards leads to better quality CSR, what should be done with that information?” 

Learned responds that women (as leaders and
otherwise) bring relational traits to an organization that have this positive affect on CSR – and that consideration should be given as to how this can benefit the organisation across other contexts.  

“When we talk about leadership and diversity in relation to corporate
social responsibility”,
she adds, “the conversation should be about ways to
identify, hire and nurture thinkers who are comfortable and practiced in
their relational traits.

Interesting.  Your thoughts??


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