A new study conducted by researchers at Catalyst and Harvard Business School suggests that what's good for women is good for business: and also for society as a whole.

According to Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility: It's a Matter of Sustainability, companies with more women at the top may be better practitioners of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Prior Catalyst research has shown that such companies also financially outperform: on average: those with fewer women in senior leadership roles.

Catalyst and HBS researchers found that companies with more women board directors and corporate officers contributed significantly more charitable funds: on average: than companies with fewer or no women in senior roles.

  • In 2007, the average donations of companies with three or more women directors were 28 times higher than those of companies with no women directors.
  • Between 1997 and 2007, companies with more women board directors donated significantly more funds than did companies with fewer women: with each additional woman board director representing an increase of $2.3 million.
  • Companies with 25% or more women corporate officers in 2007 made annual contributions that were 13 times higher than those made by companies with zero women corporate officers.
  • Companies with more women corporate officers donated significantly more funds between 1997 and 2007, and for each percentage point increase in women corporate officers, yearly donations increased by $5.7 million.

These higher contribution levels are demonstrably linked to having more women in senior leadership roles, not merely to the size of a company's budget.

  • Controlling for key factors that might influence donation levels, such as a company's overall financial performance, size, and industry, the presence of women leaders still had a significant positive impact on a company's levels of giving
  • Studies have shown that women leaders may bring diverse perspectives on fairness and the distribution of resources to donation decisions, which may in turn broaden a company's commitment to CSR and increase its levels of charitable giving.

The study also indicates that companies with more women leaders are not only more committed: on average: to corporate social responsibility. They may also be better at it, in the sense that such companies are likely to develop higher-quality CSR initiatives. Leaders who highlight gender issues in CSR strategies often position their organizations for sustained growth, a payoff that extends from the company to communities and to broader society.

To download the study: www.catalyst.org/publication/507/42/gender-and-corporate-social-responsibility-its-a-matter-of-sustainability