The debate between different schools of thought on what gender really is has been fought for several decades (Blau & Ferber, 1986, Rosener, 1990, McCabe, 2006, Yukl, 2010:468f). Within research there are different opinions on how the behaviour of men and women should be interpreted and explained. Are gender traits to be understood to differences in biology e.g. sex or is it something that we as a society have formulated as part of some grand discourse or is it a mixture of many different contributing factors (Giddens, 1989:158, Hearn, 1998). When mapping the terrain of gender research there are several path one can take. Some researchers have shown that behaviour between primates has similarities with how human behave or the behavioural patterns are closely linked to the biological sex. In this understanding we are as humans biological predisposed for certain kinds of behaviour, which unconsciously directs us (Blau & Ferber, 1986:16f). But these arguments do not provide a framework for how to explain the behavioural patterns of homosexuals, who in many ways display behaviour which is opposed to the biological sex or leave room for social interaction that contradicts the norms contributed to the individual sex (Hearn, 1998).
While there is no doubt that there are biological differences between men and women, the reduction of traits to mere biology does not confront some of the more complex issues that organisations are faced with such as male/female adaption to change or their ability to be receptive to the signals coming from the organisations environment. The idea that the social interaction between primates and that between humans should be equivalent could seem like a long stretch, but the ideas is far from foreign in the argumentation for or against equal rights and opportunities today (Yukl, 2010:470). The biological sex perspective becomes apparent and relevant when discussing pregnancy and maternity leave in relation to career advancement or when referring to some jobs being to “though” for women to handle.
Another perspective that research has chosen to deal with gender differences is by ignoring a gender impact all together. This school of thought is especially widespread within economic theory where gender is by most schools believed to have no impact or is just ignored all together (Lorenzen, et al, 2004, Douma & Schreuder, 2004). This so-called rational approach is by far the most widespread in the business community as it reduces the complexity that a gender approach brings to understanding organisational behaviour (Blau & Ferber, 1986:3ff). However, even with this in mind the statement by Gary Powel (1990) that “Success in today’s highly competitive marketplace calls for organizations to make best use of the talent available to them. To do this, they need to identify, develop, encourage, and promote the most effective managers, regardless of sex.” is true for whatever perception one subscribes to. The ability and willingness to organise in ways that utilize the resources that are available to its full potential is nothing new in business. But realising that a gender approach could free up unrealised resources and bring new perspectives is not something which business has worked with.
The concept of Engendered CSR have been used from time to time when it comes to looking at how gender and CSR could potentially be combined in an effort to bring gender to the CSR debate. In my mind gender should play a central role in any organisations work or at least it should be integrated into the corporate strategy at a significant high level.
An engendered CSR approach would imply that business, associates gender with the performance and positive behaviour that feminine and masculine traits bring to the organisation. This means that I believe that gender do play a part in how business perform and that managers and boards can actively influence their organisational results by adopting a strategic gender approach. In essence a business case for engendering the organisation needs to be established which managers can relate to, and perceive as useful to their organisations development. This would mean that instead of adopting a rights and moral argument for working with men and women, organisations would take a strategic approach with business needs at its core. This is at least to me the central theme in the concept when combining gender research and practice with CSR.
Engendered CSR is subsequently understood as a way of thinking about the organisation as made up of men and women that in different ways bring positive and negative behaviour to the organisation and its interaction with its stakeholders, and by working strategically with these different traits organisations can influence their overall performance.
The strategic business areas that according to my own and research done by others and were gender plays a significant part or could play a central role in organisational development are.
- Governance especially within auditing and assurance work
- Quality recruitment
- Positive relations with Civil Society and other stakeholder agents
- Staff turnover
- Fraud reduction
- Supply chain management
- Development of new markets and products
- Financial performance
- Stakeholder engagement
This is far from a complete list but is the areas, which are supported by some research. There is still some way to go before we can show causality between gender and these central performance areas but there is reason to think that such a link exists.
If you think that this area should be explored further and/or have ideas on research or business practice which could be used then put a comment.