Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Over the last several weeks our company has engaged in a series of social media notices leading up to a webinar on FAQs regarding our leadership development experience in Guatemala. Of those who showed an interest and signed up for the webinar - entirely 100% were women. Now, our numbers would certainly show a limiting and therefore non-valid sample size. But there is a reality that of the people that we have engaged with over the last several months the disproportionate majority are women. Leading me to ask….Where have all the men gone? – and, given the equally disproportionate number of men in the C-Suite –is the gender difference an issue to be reconciled in order to have corporate social responsibility move to the strategic front burner?
Aman Singh at Vault CSR did a nice job of summarizing the Boston College Centre for Corporate Citizenship report on the Profile of the Profession – In her blog Aman pointed out the ten leading characteristics/identifiers of a CSR professional – but for the purpose of this discussion let’s stick to the top four –
1. They hold a bachelors degree
2. They are a women
3. They are white
4. They are more than 35 years old.
I can safely say that these descriptors definitely correspond to those who showed an interest in our work. So of course we need to understand the Why?
A quick search discovered an intriguing diploma thesis argument by Elena Bueble that addresses CSR from a communications and consumer alignment perspective. She illustrates that the connectedness that consumers feel with a company’s CSR activities (and therefore contributing to their purchasing behavior) has a lot to do with the alignment of ethics between the individual and the company. She then cites references that illustrate that women are more ethically sensitive than men and in a philanthropic arena are more likely to donate money and their own time via volunteerism than men.
The Guatemala experience focuses on development of insight related to leadership skills, intense application of those insights and skills and in social enterprise in a small village and then with accredited coaching support, taking away those lessons and applying them to various components such as career, community and family over a period of several months.
This combination of learning, leadership development and “hands-on” CSR – would of course appeal to those with a strong ethical base, and those who are curious about the world and their place in it. But I do not believe that this is the sole (or soul) domain of women. Gender differences are rarely black and white, so I do imagine that CSR, leadership and learning are of interest to many men too – yet there is clearly a difference in how this is pursued by men.
1. Is social and environmental good still seen as a “soft” benefit versus that resides outside the traditional profit and loss statement that is “hard” evidence of success pursued by men?
2. Is CSR seen as a skill of nurturance – that can be performed by men, but more comfortably by women?
3. Our program focuses on leadership development alongside CSR – would more men consider leadership innate whereas women would place value on the introspection, and analysis required to be more effective?
4. These questions lead to a black and white orientation that is overly simplistic to say the least and only supports the maintenance of stereotypes. However, they do play at the corners of a more troubling scenario. If one assumes that promoting a CSR/leadership agenda is a good thing, then it should be of equal importance to both men and women. Women are the typical CSR practitioner but are underrepresented at the most senior levels – aside from trying to achieve parity in this regard; does it also make sense for us to rethink the communications context to engage men at a senior level in this dialogue. Or…..
5. Is this all nonsense and can concerns be safely dismissed simply by what we see in the relatively egalitarian social media world, i.e. witness the work and ideas of Fabian Pattberg, Elaine Cohen, Aman Singh, David Connor, Chris Jarvis, Christine Arena, Julie Urlaub, Jeffrey Hollender, or Lavinia Weissman and many others.
What do you think? Do you have answers or opinions on the above questions? Is this all a red herring? Let us know your thoughts.
The Acacia Group’s mission is to offer transformative and unique leadership development for organizations and individuals seeking to live out their global citizenship. To do this we blend knowledge from Corporate Social Responsibility, Community Development and Leadership Development and Learning to emerge new opportunities for excellence for our clients.