In recent years, the business case for gender equality has become the dominant way of speaking about gender equality and women’s empowerment across many institutions of global economic governance. In recent years, the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) have come to occupy a prominent position in debates on how corporations and smaller businesses can tackle gender inequalities while achieving competitive and financial advantages. The chapter offers a historical account of the private origins of the principles as well as an elucidation of its soft mode of governance. In conversation with a range of critical interventions in feminist political economy the chapter aims to add to existing theoretical and empirical interventions on the WEPs focusing on how feminist activism reworks and disrupts the hegemony of the business case.
Catia Gregoratti, Adrienne Roberts and Sofie Tornhill
The aim of this chapter is to document and critically analyze some of the debates around the supposed commensurability between gender equality and corporate rule. The authors survey a range initiatives and claims that emphasize the need to integrate women into the labour force, into corporate supply chains, and/or into top management roles of a growing number of corporations. These initiatives are underpinned by the ‘business case’ for gender equality, which, as feminists have argued, is deeply problematic in many of its assumptions. The authors map out some findings of ethnographic research on corporate-led empowerment initiatives aimed at women in the Global South, suggesting that these largely substantiate many of the concerns voiced by critical feminists. However, they further note that as these projects garner resistance from those social forces that they seek to silence and/or co-opt, they become central sites of feminist activism.