Diversity as a Smokescreen in Transnational Corporations? The UN Global Compact and Women’s Equality

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A commitment to diversity is often seen as a positive step taken by an employer. However, is it possible that employers use diversity as a smokescreen to hide their inaction on issues of human rights and equality? This paper examines this question, and suggests that for many transnational corporations (TNCs), a commitment to respect women’s human rights is limited to the adoption of employment equity or diversity policies which have little impact on women found in the developing economies where the TNCs are active. Many of the world’s largest and most powerful transnational corporations have joined the UN’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, the Global Compact. In doing so, they have made a commitment to ‘support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights’ such as those enumerated in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other UN conventions. The paper presents the results of a review of CSR reports of the perceived leaders in the field of CSR who are also among the world’s largest corporations. These results reveal that gender equality is missing from the CSR reports, there is a lack of gender awareness, and the relatively few times that women are mentioned in the reports, it is almost always in relation to diversity policies or equal opportunity policies, and rarely, if ever, in relation to human rights, environmental protection, and other labour rights.
The paper concludes that a lack of gender awareness and the absence of a discourse on rights and equality keeps these issues off the CSR agenda, and the TNCs who have made public commitments to the UN Global Compact are neglecting their promises to support and respect women’s rights within their sphere of influence.


Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, UN Global Compact, Globalization, Women's Equality, Human Rights, Transnational Corporations
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Maureen Kilgour

Associate Professor, Faculty of Business Administration, Collège Universitaire De St-Boniface
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Maureen has taught in the areas of diversity management, industrial relations and business ethics/corporate responsibility. She has worked as a union negotiator, in the areas of employment equity and pay equity, and on human rights issues in Canada. She is currently a PhD candidate at Warwick Business School in England, where she holds a Warwick Postgraduate Research Fellowship. Her current areas of interest are global governance, human rights and the role of non-state actors in addressing the problems faced by people in developing economies.

Ref: D08P0460