Empowering Women Through Corporate Social Responsibility: A Feminist Foucauldian Critique

Lauren McCarthy

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been hailed as a new means to address gender inequality, particularly by facilitating women’s empowerment. Women are frequently and forcefully positioned as saviours of economies or communities and proponents of sustainability. Using vignettes drawn from a CSR women’s empowerment programme in Ghana, this conceptual article explores unexpected programme outcomes enacted by women managers and farmers. It is argued that a feminist Foucauldian reading of power as relational and productive can help explain this since those involved are engaged in ongoing processes of resistance and self-making. This raises questions about the assumptions made about ‘women’ and what is it that such CSR programmes aim to ‘empower’ them ‘from’ or ‘to’. Empowerment, when viewed as an ethic of care for the Self, is better understood as a self-directed process, rather than a corporate-led strategy. This has implications for how we can imagine the achievement of gender equality through CSR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-631
Number of pages29
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date29 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • gender
  • feminism
  • corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Foucault
  • empowerment

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