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Equality Law and the Limits of the 'Business Case' for addressing Gender Inequalities


  • McLaughlin, C.
  • Deakin. S.


The 'business case' for gender equality rests on the claim that organisations can improve their competitiveness through improved diversity management, in particular by reducing turnover and training costs and minimising reputational and litigation risks arising from potentially discriminatory behaviour. It is also argued that through the mechanism of socially responsible investment (SRI), shareholders can put pressure on the management of listed companies to take gender issues more seriously. We assess these claims through an empirical study which draws on interviews with institutional investors engaged in SRI and with managers in a range of organisations in both the private and public sector. We find that organisations are increasingly responding to the argument that persistent gender inequalities represent a form of mismanagement of human resources, with negative implications for the delivery of services, in the public sector, and for the efficiency of the firm, in the private sector. Shareholder engagement, however, has so far had very little impact in this area. We discuss regulatory reforms, including tighter rules on firm-level disclosure of gender policies and practices, which could address these issues.

Suggested Citation

  • McLaughlin, C. & Deakin. S., 2011. "Equality Law and the Limits of the 'Business Case' for addressing Gender Inequalities," Working Papers wp420, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp420
    Note: PRO-2

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    gender equality; diversity management; socially responsible investment; discrimination law;

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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