Contribution of corporate sector towards women’s economic empowerment in India 

Spotlights CSR activities of top 100 companies of India for women’s economic empowerment; identifies opportunities and best practices to assist companies in developing engagement approaches.

UNDP, New Delhi (India): A new report by the United Nations Development Programme in India (UNDP India), in partnership with Samhita Social Ventures, has found that 72% of BSE 100 companies report an intervention in women’s empowerment. The report, Corporate Engagement in Women’s Economic Empowerment, launched today in New Delhi, includes a micro-analysis of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business activities of India’s top 100 companies on the BSE 100 index on women’s economic empowerment (WEE). The report outlines the opportunities for corporations to use CSR as a catalyst for this cause.

At the launch, Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP India said, “Today, companies acknowledge that workplace diversity and empowering women contributes to business success. This is also important for the Sustainable Development Goals – when women work, it has a multiplier effect on their lives, the lives of their children, families and communities. UNDP is committed to deepening public-private collaboration and identify new employment/entrepreneurship opportunities for women, and to play a proactive role in equipping girls with skills/entrepreneurship capacities.”

The report examines the nature of CSR support for WEE, including the proportion and distribution of funding, geographical footprint, the most popular types of interventions etc. It also explores the corporate sector’s treatment of women in its practices in employment, leadership and supply chain management. In doing so, it makes the case for better and more comprehensive measures for gender inclusivity and sensitivity, through its two models: The Responsible Citizenship Continuum, which enables companies to solve the complex issues of gender empowerment; and Lifecycle of Women’s Economic Empowerment.

In India, WEE remains a big challenge as women’s participation in the workforce dropped to a historic low of 23.3%*, as per the recent periodic labour force survey (PLFS) data published by the NSSO. It is estimated that India’s GDP could be increased by 27% if women were to participate in the labour force in equal numbers to men. Also, while the private sector continues to invest in other complimentary development priorities such as education, healthcare and environment, investment on WEE remains at just 8% of overall CSR expenditure (2017-18).

The Key Findings for CSR in Women’s Economic Empowerment

  • With 72% of BSE 100 companies reporting an intervention in women’s empowerment,
    there is a huge opportunity to tap into the widespread CSR interest in this cause.
  • However, CSR expenditure is relatively low: women’s economic empowerment garnered
    INR 251 Cr, with a median of INR 1.97 Cr per company, accounting for 4% of total CSR
  • Geographically, states requiring interventions in women’s empowerment, such as Bihar,
    Jharkhand, Assam saw very little CSR intervention.
  • CSR strategies, currently are missing certain critical aspects of the women’s economic
    empowerment lifecycle.
  • Companies are taking a siloed approach, with only 31% of the businesses intervening in all
    three stages of prepare, enter, grow & sustain.
  • CSR support was concentrated in the Prepare and Enter stages.
  • Vocational training was the most common CSR intervention (68% of companies reported
    such a program), followed by SHG creation (42%) and entrepreneurship development (30%).
  • Not many companies reported supporting digital and financial inclusion explicitly – 11% and
    15% – despite the presence of well-established and scalable models and NGOs working in
    these sectors
  • There were fewer CSR programs in ‘Enablers’. Just 22% of companies reported programs
    on soft and life skills, and only two companies were working in domestic violence
  • Companies reported practical challenges such as complex nature of decision-making
    within companies, difficulties in identifying evidence-backed and effective models and
    experienced partners etc. when attempting to incorporate some of these interventions into
    their programs

The Key Findings on addressing WEE through business practices

  • Highlighting a key need gap, the report nudges companies to look beyond the regular CSR
    focus on initiatives for women, to promote an enabling environment for women to
    participate and thrive in the workforce.
  • Data showed that women make up less than 10% of the permanent workforce of the
    majority of BSE 100 companies, possibly because industries that have historically been
    male-dominated, including manufacturing and automobile sectors, are very highly
    represented in this category.
  • All except 2 companies complied with the mandate to appoint at least one women director
    in their board. However, only 15% companies had three or more women board members –    the strength it takes to create balanced board dynamics that allow for women’s ideas to
    be heard as per global research.
  • Case studies on Godrej Ltd., Arvind Ltd. And ACC show how companies are being
    responsible employers.
  • While representative, quantitative data was not available to map supply chain performance
    of companies on WEE, the report highlights case studies on Future Group, Hindustan
    Unilever, Mars Inc. etc. to showcase how companies are supporting women’s
    empowerment through their procurement and distribution practices.

The report and its executive summary are available at

Follow the online conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #LiveTheIntent or #DishaSkills, and by following @UNDP_India and @Samhitadotorg

About UNDP
UNDP works in almost 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion, while protecting the planet. UNDP helps countries to develop strong policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience so they can sustain their progress. UNDP has worked in India since 1951 in almost all areas of human development.

With over 30 projects on the ground in almost every state, today UNDP India works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by transforming traditional models to do development differently. In a rapidly changing global environment, the work of UNDP and the broader UN family aligns with the Government of India’s new national development vision, India 2030, and builds upon the Sustainable Development Goals.

About Samhita Social Ventures
Samhita is a CSR consulting firm that collaborates with companies to develop impactful corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The team is co-creating a CSR eco-system of multi-stakeholder partnerships by leveraging their strengths in strategic consulting; research and knowledge; programme design and management; impact assessment and capacity building.

Some of Samhita’s current partnerships include Governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana, Larsen & Tubro, Hindustan Unilever, Godrej, Shriram Transport Finance Co Ltd., Viacom 18, Nomura, Reckitt Benckiser India Pvt. Ltd., Credit Suisse and Crompton Greaves, etc. Samhita’s work has been strengthened and supported by such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Tata Trusts, GIZ, DFID, the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, UNDP and the Power of Nutrition.

Image by Elvira Groot from Pixabay


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