The Political Economy of ‘Transnational Business Feminism’: Problematizing the Corporate-Led Gender Equality Agenda

Citation:

Roberts, Adrienne. 2015. “The Political Economy of ‘Transnational Business Feminism’: Problematizing the Corporate-led Gender Equality Agenda.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (2): 209–31.

Author: Adrienne Roberts

Abstract:

This article traces the emergence of a politico-economic project of "transnational business feminism" (TBF) over the past decade. This project - which is being developed by a coalition of states, financial institutions, the UN, corporations, NGOs and others - stresses the "business case" for gender equality by arguing that investments made in women can (and should) be measured in terms of the cost savings to families and communities, as well as in terms of boosting corporate profitability and national competitiveness. This article uses a feminist historical materialist framework to argue that TBF is facilitating the further entrenchment of the power of corporations to create "expert" knowledges about both "gender" and "development." Using the Nike-led "Girl Effect" campaign as an example, it is argued that TBF is promoting a naturalized and essentialized view of women and gender relations that ignores the historical and structural causes of poverty and gender-based inequality. It is also helping to reproduce the same neoliberal macroeconomic framework that has created and sustained gender-based and other forms of oppression via the global feminization of labor, the erosion of support for social reproduction and the splintering of feminist critiques of capitalism.

Keywords: transnational business feminism, feminist IPE, feminist historical materialism, the business case for gender equality, World Bank, social reproduction, the Girl Effect

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Financial Institutions, International Organizations, Multi-national Corporations, NGOs, Political Economies

Year: 2015

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