Gender Inequalities in Production and Reproduction
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Anke C. Plagnol
Chapter 6: Equality Law and the Limits of the ‘Business Case’ for Addressing Gender Inequalities
Colm McLaughlin and Simon Deakin INTRODUCTION 1. How best to align the interests of society with corporate behaviour has been a contentious issue in the context of gender inequality throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In the UK context, the traditional, rights-based rationale for anti-discrimination law has had to compete with an officially sanctioned ‘business case’ for equality. The business case rests on the premise that addressing gender inequality is good for an organisation’s competitiveness and performance. Gender equality policies and practices, it is argued, can help organisations attract and retain valued employees, understand diverse customer needs, reduce costs associated with staff turnover and low morale, and minimise the reputational and litigation risks of discriminatory behaviour. Organisations can present their progressive policies of this kind as part of a wider agenda to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). As part of the CSR agenda, a number of corporate governance mechanisms have been suggested as means for advancing progressive employer practices. Pension funds and other institutional owners of shares in UK-listed companies have been encouraged to take a longterm view of their holdings and to engage more actively with investee companies (Myners 2001). Part of this process is a growing emphasis on socially responsible investment (SRI) practices, according to which institutional investors not only may but, in some circumstances, must take into account the social and environmental performance of their investee companies, alongside benchmarks based on more narrowly focused financial returns (Watchman 2010). Changes to the law made by the Companies Act 2006...
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