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    Leading the debate for the business case for gender equality, perilous for whom?

    Cullen, Pauline and Murphy, Mary P. (2017) Leading the debate for the business case for gender equality, perilous for whom? Gender, Work and Organisation, 25 (2). pp. 110-126. ISSN 1468-0432

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    This research examines how the framing of the business case for gender equality (BCGE) in the European Union (EU) translates in the Irish national context and how different actors have engaged with this framing exercise. A central concern is how gender knowledge is mobilized by different actors as they compete to shape discourse, policy and practice on gender equality. We draw upon theoretical work that has interrogated the relationship between neoliberalism, gender inequality and feminist mobilization before reviewing critical assessments of the BCGE. The primary focus of this paper, having mapped this theoretical debate, is to analyse the role different Irish actors and organizations play in reproducing key frames and to examine the ambiguous or ambivalent engagement of different interest groups with this agenda. In turn, we assess the degree to which the agenda enables or disables structural change in access to power. We explore three case studies through which the BCGE in the EU was reinforced, adapted, resisted and rejected in our discussions, and draw out the constraints, opportunities and outcomes in each. Our first case study, which sets the national context for the following case studies, reviews how the Irish state interacts with the EU to frame gender equality and how it partners with key actors (state feminism and femocrats, private actors and feminist actors) to advance the BCGE. The second case study examines the role of the leading Irish feminist civil society organization (CSO) in the Women on Boards campaign that reinforces the dominant instrumental discourse associated with EU and national framing of gender parity on boards, and the ambiguity of feminists about this campaign. The third case study examines how Irish financial elites symbolically engage with gender parity on boards while simultaneously seeking to veto the implementation of gender representation targets proposed in the EU Capital Directive. It is clear that a degree of instrumentality informs most actors’ framing of BCGE. We also find evidence of how power actors and financial elites, while rhetorically engaging in BCGE and employing it when relevant to develop reputational capital, will seek ultimately to protect the status quo rejecting the governance benefits implied in BCGE. Ultimately, our cases illustrate the potential of the BCGE to support the inclusion of women in governance structures yet demonstrate that engaging with BCGE is perilous for some.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: gender knowledge; feminism; business case for gender equality; neoliberalism;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 11341
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Dr. Pauline Cullen
    Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2019 13:49
    Journal or Publication Title: Gender, Work and Organisation
    Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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