top of page

A New Contribution to Women's Studies Literature

Gender Equality and Corporate Social Responsibility from a Social Sustainability Perspective

Your master's thesis titled Gender Equality and Corporate Social Responsibility from a Social Sustainability Perspective has been published. First of all, we congratulate you on your effort.

Kadın Çalışmaları Literatürüne Yeni Bir Katkı

How did you decide to conduct a study on social responsibility studies aimed at ensuring gender equality?

Social responsibility has always been a part of my personal and professional life.

In addition to my individual efforts to protect the environment, children and animals, I have always observed the social responsibility understanding in all my work in my working life, and I have worked for the adoption of this issue in the companies I work for.

When I started my graduate education in the field of public relations, there were questions in my mind: "What can I do in the name of social responsibility in the field of communication, how can I create more benefits while doing my job, how can I improve myself".

My dear teacher, Prof. Dr. Ebru Özgen's research and studies in the field of corporate social responsibility inspired me. First, I prepared my seminar project with the title of "Contribution of Corporate Communication to the Field of Social Responsibility". The research I have done has led me to progress in the field of social responsibility in my thesis. However, you know that the field of social responsibility has many dimensions. My interest in gender equality was thanks to my dear friend Aylin Löle from university.

His excitement for the awareness of equality to become widespread, his efforts to transform this consciousness into a permanent culture, and of course the story of the establishment of Awen for Us, attracted me to this field.

Do you think the gender and women's studies literature is considered important in our country or is it sufficient? Why is it important to direct and support such research?

Unfortunately, Turkey's gender equality scorecard is a rather weak and neglected issue. When I started my thesis research, I saw that this subject had never been dealt with academically in the field of public relations, and the thesis study had not been prepared. Despite the risk of not being able to access sufficient resources for my research, the dimensions of the inequality problem in our country pushed me to continue in this field and do my best.

Addressing gender and women's studies at an academic level started with the "women's studies research and application centers" established within the scope of universities in the 90s. In other words, the development of the literature on this subject in our country has a history of only 25-30 years. Compared to the studies in Europe, of course, it is not possible to consider this period and the studies carried out as sufficient.

During my thesis research, I benefited from many resources produced by “gender equality and women's studies centers” established by universities such as Ankara University, Marmara University, Koç University, Sabancı University, Kadir Has University, and Bilgi University. In addition, I observed that the companies I examined as an example received support from the equality platforms of these universities in their equality studies.

The existence of these centers, which can support companies that want to work on an equality with their knowledge and research, is very pleasing and promising in terms of finding permanent solutions to problems and ensuring social sustainability. In particular, the researches conducted by the centers contribute to revealing current problems, bringing the issue to the agenda with its various dimensions, and taking action for a solution.

Can you tell us a little bit about the “multiplier effect” of gender equality? Can we hear from you about the connection between women's participation in economic life, the problem of poverty, and sustainability?

Today, humanity is going through a great test that requires both individuals and institutions to fulfill their responsibilities regarding social problems. Poverty is at the forefront of the problems that deeply affect the whole world and threaten humanity. It brings with it many issues such as poverty, hunger, health problems, unemployment, education problems, environmental problems, inequality, and injustice, which have global effects.

Fighting poverty effectively and solving the problem will only be possible if the issue is handled on a global scale. Socioeconomic and political improvements to be made in this regard will also pave the way for social development. The three main issues prioritized by the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, developed by world leaders to come together with the United Nations organization to develop clearer solutions to deepening problems; end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

17 global goals were agreed upon to achieve these three important tasks.

The motto of the Global Goals, which also guides corporations to determine their areas of sustainability and social responsibility, has been determined as "Leaving no one behind". Gender equality, article 5 of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, aims to “achieve gender equality and empower women and girls”.

The dimensions of the inequality problem, which world leaders stated that a solution should be provided with importance and urgency, have deepened with the effect of the pandemic. The inequalities experienced in the labor force, employment, and economic fields are followed by the issues of education, health, and violence, where the inequality dimension is intense.

Global research and indices show that the employment of women in working life is rapidly decreasing both in the world and in our country, and gender inequality is reaching levels that cannot be ignored.

The most important condition for sustainable development is to ensure the use of production factors at the highest level and efficiency. Looking at the Global Gender Inequality Index reports for the distribution of the leading workforce among the factors of production in the world, it is seen that there is an unbalanced distribution in favor of men. According to the “Global Gender Inequality Index Report 2021” of the World Economic Forum (WEF); While gender inequality is expected to end in 99.5 years before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is predicted that this calculation will go back one generation and increase to 135.6 years, and it will take 267.6 years to close the gap between them. According to research data from the International Labor Organization, the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on women has been more devastating than on men; While men lost their jobs at a rate of 3.9 percent during the epidemic, this rate was 5 percent for women. As a result of gender inequality at various levels all over the world, women are pushed into the background in many areas of social life, from health to education, from politics to economy, from participation in the workforce to work in income-generating jobs.

The “multiplier effect” of gender equality is increasingly recognized. According to the United Nations Women's Report, greater women's participation in the workforce also reduces poverty by increasing productivity and income. In contrast, the report states that systematic discrimination against women and girls will make it impossible for many countries to achieve their poverty goals and other Sustainable Development Goals. There is a positive relationship between women's labor force participation and sustainable growth, and women's participation in economic life is an essential requirement for economic growth.

Today, many institutions gather all social responsibility activities, including gender equality, under the umbrella of “sustainability”. If we are talking about sustainable institutions, societies and even a sustainable planet, whatever the issue of social responsibility is, it should be handled with a holistic approach at the point of the solution.

What is the role of women's empowerment in global development?

It will be possible for all societies to live in prosperity, peace, and stability only in an environment where global solidarity, is far from poverty, gender equality is ensured, the environment is protected, and basic services are offered to people with a rights-based approach. The understanding of development in this framework points to a process that is based on human well-being and well-being, and considers people as men and women, together with their differences.

In order to ensure development, it is necessary to empower women, this fact gives importance to efforts to achieve gender equality on a global scale. In the report published by Mc Kinsey in 2016; According to the available data, it is stated that the empowerment of women has positive and important effects on raising future generations and family health, as well as contributing to economic growth.

In the Deloitte 2011 Report, it is stated that the return on investment in women's empowerment is high and it is recommended that public and private sector organizations take advantage of this opportunity by investing in women's empowerment and bringing women to senior management levels. In the report prepared by Goldman Sachs in 2007, it was stated that by reducing the difference in employment rates of men and women, a significant increase could be made in the gross national product rates of many countries and regions.

According to the purpose of Article 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals "to ensure gender equality and strengthen the social position of women and girls", the empowerment of women is seen as the main basis of sustainable development.

In order to eliminate inequalities between men and women, to ensure women's participation in socio-economic and cultural life, to ensure equal use of the opportunities provided by development, and to empower women, international development programs are prepared and country-specific measures are developed. Leaders of global development, especially the World Bank, define women's participation in development as a factor that increases labor and market products and thus creates smart economies, and they argue that it creates a solution where everyone wins.

The empowerment of women, their participation in economic life, and ensuring equality in working life are shown as the necessity of social sustainability, welfare, and development. Therefore, the fact that women play an active role in the social and economic development processes in countries, and their equal participation in the labor force participation and employment is an important factor in achieving sustainable development both individually and socially. In this context, increasing women's employment means preventing women's poverty, and achieving higher income and better living standards.

What affects women's employment? How can we reduce the negative effects of gender inequality in the field of employment?

The most important point for women to reach economic equality is the issue of employment. Analyzing the reflection of social patterns and gender roles of women and men in the economy is of great importance in terms of evaluating employment values ​​as cause and effect.

Despite their contribution to production, women have not been able to take advantage of the blessings of development for centuries. Today, women constitute the part most affected by poverty in the world. Even if women take part in working life due to social stereotypes, domestic and childcare duties and responsibilities continue.

One of the most concrete indicators determining the position of women in society is their place in social production and its conditions. It is possible to get an idea about how much gender equality is achieved in a country by looking at the place of women in social production, their working conditions, their jobs and duties, and the wage rates they earn. Women, who have the opportunity to receive education, face obstacles and limitations in the next step of entering working life.

These limitations lead women to choose certain professions and certain fields of study. Women are predominantly forced to work in labor-intensive, low-paid, and non-progressive business areas. In addition, the duties and responsibilities of working women in business life are expected to be the continuation and complement motherhood and spouse responsibility at home. In order to achieve a balance between working life and family life, it is of great importance that the responsibilities of women in the family are shared among their spouses and the contribution of the state through legal practices.

The participation of women in working life is also important in terms of human freedom. Unless the woman has economic freedom as an individual, she has to live under the protection of a man in her family. Gaining economic freedom also gives women the chance to fight against domestic violence and harassment.

While the participation of women in employment varies from country to country, among the important factors affecting women's employment; are sociocultural factors, education, urbanization, marital status, economic conditions, social patterns and roles, and domestic care services. On the other hand, the “family” has a key position in shaping women's employment. The family constitutes the area where gender ideology is formed and developed.

All obstacles to women's participation in employment should be evaluated from a holistic perspective and relevant policies should be developed both in the state and in the private sector. It is important for social sustainability, economic development, and welfare that the state, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and all men and women, fulfill their responsibilities regarding gender equality. It is important to realize the efforts to be made in this field in a way that covers all institutions and organizations in order to ensure equality.

In your thesis, on gender equality with a social sustainability approach, UNDP Turkey Gender Equality Expert Aslı Çoban - Founder of Awen for Us Platform and Social Responsibility Projects Consultant Dr. Aylin Löle - Istanbul Bilgi University Faculty Member Prof. Dr. You also included the views of Itır Erhar.
What did they say about a sustainable and equal future?

As I mentioned at the beginning, the issue of gender equality has not been discussed in the dimensions of communication and public relations before. A study examining the issue with a social sustainability approach was not included in the literature.

Therefore, I created the “Gender Equality with a Social Sustainability Approach” section of my thesis with original research and the information I obtained from interviews with experts on the subject.

Each of the experts I consulted shared invaluable information on their own projects and studies. I can summarize the views that emerged from these interviews, many of which support each other, as follows:

- The sense of responsibility of the private sector in the field of gender has evolved from social responsibility to sustainability.

- Gender equality studies of institutions are no longer just works for society, they turn into projects and programs in which companies also deal with their own transformations.

- While in the past, the work of institutions in this field was limited to communication for equality, today the understanding of the institution's development of what can be done in its own activities has begun to develop in order to change this understanding globally.

- It is important to support the private sector to look at its own internal processes in this regard and to play a transformative role for the outside while transforming.

- “Green transformation” programs, which refer to programs aimed at increasing the presence of women in the jobs of the future, are of great importance in this field.

- Measuring and reporting the studies with various standards is considered necessary and compulsory in terms of ensuring sustainability and creating value.

- Men should be included in the studies to form a part of this issue.

- In gender equality, communication has two important tasks in terms of both realizing “egalitarian communication” and creating an incentive mechanism. The communication structure should be very strong both within the institutions and in the facilitating and supporting mechanisms of this work, such as NGOs and unions. While the equality part consists of technical issues, the other part consists of communication in terms of developing partnerships. At the point reached today, gender equality studies have ceased to be focused on communication units and have become multi-unit work.

- Companies' sustainability departments and reporting departments are trying to create multi-unit.

- It has been stated that the following three objectives will motivate the transformation in gender equality studies in the private sector; first, strengthening the communication of the institution with all stakeholders, secondly, providing the driving force for the standards sought by the supply chain mechanisms, and finally, providing ease of use from incentives that provide access to finance with government incentives.

- The way to make women's labor visible and valuable in all areas of life, and to design a sustainable future without glass ceilings, is to create value together for equality.

- It should be accepted that gender inequality is not a 'women's problem' but a 'humanity problem'. 'Green washing', which is formed with the concept of sustainability, should not be overshadowed by 'purple washing', which is created by structures that do not produce permanent solutions to gender equality.

- Studies carried out in this field should be holistic, inclusive, measurable, and sustainable, and studies should not be carried out to produce PR material.

- Does not apply equal pay for equal work, does not support women's leadership at the management level, does not transform human resources policies on the level of gender equality, does not have rights-based labor peace, and does not structure production processes without harming the ecosystem, ignores fair trade, does not have ethical codes, responsible production It will not be possible for remote companies to implement corporate social responsibility projects based on real gender equality.

- Institutions that reflect sustainability in their business models as an inevitable transformation and that carry out corporate social responsibility and employee volunteering projects based on gender equality can come to the fore with their work.

- Companies that implement sustainable corporate social responsibility projects related to gender equality organize their own business processes according to this systematic.

- The contribution to the field of sustainable, socially beneficial corporate social responsibility projects, which are implemented in the perspective of gender equality, based on the teaching of good examples, is extremely important.

- The number of female employees is very low in technical fields such as engineering and in fields such as blockchain, coding, NFT, and software, which are called the jobs of the future. When institutions want to employ more women in these fields, they face a shortage of women trained specifically for these jobs.

- Reducing women's domestic care services is an important issue in ensuring gender equality. Without equitable solutions to domestic care, it will not be sustainable to achieve equality figure targets within the institution.

- Institutions should go down to the root causes of gender equality, focus on choosing one of them, and internalize this issue with programs that will either train women in the field or reduce the burden of care.

- Institutions should talk and increase good practices instead of temporary solutions such as reaching number targets.

- It is of great importance for institutions to create gender equality and inclusion policy texts and to have company officials sign these texts for the successful implementation of these practices. The structuring of the gender equality organization in companies should be owned from the top, at the CEO level, and the spokesperson of the subject should be the CEO.

- The ideal of gender equality is to go beyond the male-female binary approach.

- Seeing gender equality as a necessity, not a responsibility, shows that there is a 360-degree view from the perspective of sustainability.

- Institutions should receive expert support and consultancy from relevant NGOs and universities in order to carry out these studies.

Why do companies need to develop projects based on gender equality? Where should they start?

Companies must first accept that they must do their part for “equality” if they want to ensure a sustainable future. Because the problem of gender inequality is not a women's problem, but a humanity's problem.

If permanent solutions cannot be produced for this problem, it is obvious that it will bring along other big problems in both social and economic dimensions that will interrupt the continuity of companies, institutions, and countries.

Companies should also stay away from “purple washing” works that they have to do for various reasons, that do not create real benefits, are empty content, and are insincere, and it should be ensured that the work to be done is holistic, inclusive, measurable, and sustainable.

In today's conditions, it is only possible for companies to come to the fore with their social responsibility activities, only by internalizing this issue both internally and externally.

On the one hand, companies that develop sustainable projects that see them as social responsibility and offer real solutions to the inequality problem of their environment, on the other hand; When they apply equal pay for equal work internally, support women's leadership at the management level, observe equality in human resources policies, implement rights-based labor peace, structure their production processes without harming the ecosystem, conduct fair trade, have ethical codes, and make responsible production, they will make the benefit they create sustainably and make a difference.

Companies that want to work in this field should go down to the root causes of the problems they have identified in gender equality, choose one of them and focus on it, and this issue should be internalized throughout the company and the process should be managed.

The fact that companies see gender equality as an obligation, not a responsibility, shows that they approach sustainability holistically. When companies that want to work in the field of equality receive expert support and consultancy from the relevant NGOs and universities that carry out research and projects in this field, better jobs will emerge and the benefit created will grow.

What would be your advice to those who want to work on gender equality, inclusion, and sustainable development? What are the titles in the field that you would say 'it would be useful to work'?

The conclusions I have reached as a result of the thesis I have prepared are as follows: It is necessary to increase the platforms that will address gender equality holistically, contribute to raising awareness throughout society, and discuss good examples. Increasing the number, expanding and disseminating the subject-specific activities, written and visual media, academic discussion environments, researches, and reports are of great importance in terms of contributing to the field.

The events to be organized; Notably, the communication and sustainability departments of institutions of all sizes that manage, develop, contribute and implement equality practices, NGOs, relevant units of state and local governments, and relevant departments of universities conducting research and academic studies on this subject, academics, researchers, social entrepreneurs, It needs to be developed in a framework that will bring together members of the press and the media, covering all parties.

Finally, let's ask Awen for Us followers, what is Sibel Keyvan's promise of equality? What is your Word for Equality? 😊

My thesis research has shown me that there is a lot I don't know about this subject, but I am willing and eager to learn and will continue to work on it. I believe that sharing what I learned in this research with a wider audience will contribute to the field. For this reason, I will first create an academic article from the thesis work and then turn it into a book.

My Word in Equality: As a communication professional, I promise that I will ensure gender equality in every work I carry out and that I will emphasize to the companies that I consult, that equality should not be seen as a responsibility but as a necessity from the perspective of social sustainability, and should be handled holistically together with all other responsibilities.

We thank you.

bottom of page