With catchphrases like “smart economics” and “the business case for gender equality,” global corporations are increasingly involved in gender and development politics in the Global South. This book focuses on an emblematic example of this tendency to interrogate the proposed win-win relationship between corporate profit opportunities and the economic advancement of women in marginalized economic positions. The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program has won broad recognition for its global reach and ambitious goal: to economically empower five million female micro-entrepreneurs across its supply chain before the end of 2020. Based on situated engagements with program implementers and participants in Mexico and South Africa, the study moves beyond the unequivocally positive effects conveyed by the program’s rhetoric. It examines the appropriation of social values to strengthen the brand; the use of self-help psychology to enhance entrepreneurial conduct and exempt weak economic results; and the recasting of women’s precarious labor in terms of entrepreneurship – which conceals structural causes of poverty and impediments of sustainable business development. Providing unique insights into the premises and effects of corporate solutions to gender inequality in the Global South, the book contributes to debates on the relations between neoliberal capitalist expansion and feminist emancipatory endeavors.
Introduction: Win-Win Capitalism
1. Approaches to Corporate-Led Empowerment in The Global South
2. Feminist Research in the Wake of Corporate Power
3. Branding Poverty: The Values of Women’s Empowerment
4. “Open Happiness”: Empowering Emotions
5. The Entrepreneurialization of Feminized Labor
Conclusion: The Contradictions of Corporate Gender Politics
Sofie Tornhill is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Studies at Linnaeus University, Sweden.
The Business of Women’s Empowerment fills a huge gap in the literature by beginning to empirically investigate the impacts of corporate initiatives to empower women through entrepreneurship. Moving beyond glossy brochures and filtered messages, the book unravels the complexities of such projects from a bottom-up perspective that shows how corporate projects become a part of women’s survival strategies. A page-turner and highly recommended!