India, reported The Guardian, is the first country to mandate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), directing companies to spend 2% of their net profits on social development. Over the last decade, corporate companies in India have stepped up CSR efforts, giving back to the societies that they are part of. This trend is visible in the increasingly interactive CSR events being conducted by MNCs on a regular basis. It is hardly surprising, then, that corporate social responsibility has been included as part of the women empowerment discourse at the 12th Women’s World Congress being organized at the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

Col. Prakash Tewari

Col. Prakash Tewari (retd.), Vice President of CSR and Education, Jindal Steel and Power Limited, spoke at length about the CSR initiatives taken up by the Jindal group across the country. He revealed that 6.5% of the company’s net profit is being channeled into CSR, and that he oversaw more than 250 crores being spent on CSR projects during 2013. Col. Tewari (retd.) explained that the Jindal group has a triple bottom line approach to CSR – initiatives must serve the people (education, health, infrastructure), planet (energy, sustainability) and profit (increase profits).

Numerous schools and institutes of higher education that focus on certain life skills have been set up, with state-of-the-art infrastructure allowing students from poor families to avail themselves of brilliant education. Women empowerment has been promoted through maternal and infant health care initiatives, and through social business entrepreneurship model of community development. Women are employed to create products needed by their community, or have retail value elsewhere. These products are marketed and retailed by Jindal, enabling the women to earn their living and enhance their self-worth, he added.

Shakti Sagar

Adding to the wealth of information shared by Col. Prakash Tewari (retd.), Shakti Sagar of Automatic Data Processing (ADP) pvt. ltd gave a global perspective on CSR efforts. He set the context of his message with statistics that painted a grim picture of the lack of quality education across the world, and of unemployment and poverty. Narrowing down to the topic of gender issues in the work place, he used the findings of a research commissioned by Slater and Gordon. The statistics showed that a woman’s role at a work place declines after she gives birth to a child as the attitudes of co-workers and employers change. Shakti Sagar pointed out that while American women have to become mothers to face such discrimination, marriage itself is the prime reason of women dropping out of work force in India.

He said that gender equality at the work place can be achieved only through equitable distribution of power and influences among both the sexes. Shakti Sagar concluded on an optimistic note, reiterating that gender roles were merely social constructs and not a fact of biology, and urging everyone to break barriers and work towards equality.

– Harika Vankadara, MA-Communication, UoH