The third in our Top20 Reading List series to celebrate WAIB’s 20th anniversary is on gender and sustainability. We would like to acknowledge all the important work that has been done in the domain of sustainability (people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships). Although a lot of this work has implications for gender, we only considered articles for this particular reading list if the study explicitly discussed gender. Some of the articles look at gender as a context, others look at the impact of gender on sustainability, or the outcomes of (un)sustainable business practices for gender. We also sought to include journals that are explicitly IB journals and journals that are not explicitly IB but publish studies that have relevance for IB, gender, and sustainability. This reading list was curated by YingYing Zhang Zhang and Noemi Sinkovics.

Scroll to the end to watch the interview with the authors of the Nr1 ranked articles.

Nr 20. Murray, Janet Y., & Zhang-Zhang, Yingying. (2018). Insights on women’s labor participation in gulf cooperation council countries. Business Horizons, 61(5), 711-720.

In analyzing the many stereotypes surrounding Arab Middle Eastern women’s employment issues, this article focuses on women’s labor participation and their career development in Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The authors discuss the factors contributing to low women’s labor participation and the difficulty of career advancement for women, including (1) norms and traditions; (2) job opportunities and workplace discrimination; and (3) role models, mentors, and networking.

Nr 19. Galletta, Simona, Mazzu, Sebastiano, Naciti, Valeria, & Vermiglio, Carlo. (2022). Gender diversity and sustainability performance in the banking industry. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 29(1), 161-174.

This study empirically tests the gender diversity in the banking industry in 48 countries with a panel data, and its effects on the sustainability performance in three dimensions: financial, social, and environmental. While the increasing proportion of female directors also improves the financial and environmental sustainability, female managers are keener on the social dimension and in engaging stakeholders.

Nr 18. McArdle, Louise, & Thomas, Pete. (2012). Fair enough? Women and fair trade. Critical Perspectives on International Business, 8(4), 277-294

A gender and development perspective is used to assess whether Fair Trade empowers women in developing nations. The findings suggest that Fair Trade offers an alternative to free trade within capitalist production and has a positive impact for producers. The impact on gender relations within producer communities is limited although there are benefits for some women involved in Fair Trade production. The article highlights that while Fair Trade is usually considered as a positive developmental tool, its impacts are not homogeneous and are subject to the cultural gender relations that exist in producer communities.

Nr 17. Najjar, Dina, Spaling, Harry, & Sinclair, A. John. (2013). Learning about sustainability and gender through farmer field schools in the taita hills, kenya. International Journal of Educational Development, 33(5), 466-475.

The UN funded Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in Kenya focuses on women empowerment. Gendered learning significantly changed the meanings schemes related to farming, and contribute to the sustainability enhancement and gender equality in the agricultural participatory projects. Study context in Africa in general needs to be encouraged.

Nr 16. Shrestha, Bindu, Bajracharya, Sushil B., Keitsch, Martina M., & Tiwari, Sudarshan R. (2020). Gender differences in household energy decision-making and impacts in energy saving to achieve sustainability: A case of kathmandu. Sustainable Development, 28(5), 1049-1062.

This paper takes Nepal as the empirical study context, which is an under-studied context and deserve more attention. Women are found to be more environmental conscious and actively participate in the energy-saving practices. While men have little higher energy’s technical knowledge than women, it is women who participate in energy decision-making decision for household energy saving.

Nr 15. Gray, Brendan James, Duncan, Suzanne, Kirkwood, Jodyanne, & Walton, Sara. (2014). Encouraging sustainable entrepreneurship in climate-threatened communities: A samoan case study. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 26(5-6), 401-430.

South Pacific island states are at the forefront of climatic changes that have precipitated severe environmental events. These small countries also face economic and social challenges that require entrepreneurial solutions. The article conducts an in-depth study of Women in Business Development Incorporated, a non-governmental organization that helps women and families in Samoa to establish sustainable enterprises.

Nr 14. Marano, Valentina, Sauerwald, Steve, & Van Essen, Marc. (2022). The influence of culture on the relationship between women directors and corporate social performance. Journal of International Business Studies.

The article examines the relationship between women directors and corporate social performance by considering the contingency effects of home-country culture. Drawing on upper echelons and social role theories, the authors find that women directors positively influence corporate social performance, and that selected GLOBE cultural practices moderate this relationship.

Nr 13. van der Straaten, Khadija, Pisani, Niccolo, & Kolk, Ans. (2020). Unraveling the MNE wage premium. Journal of International Business Studies, 51(9), 1355-1390.

This article uses unique micro-level data from over 40,000 employees in 13 countries to examine MNEs’ distributional effects for employees’ gender, experience, and immigrant status; the influence of host-country property rights protection and labor regulation; and interplays with region and industry effects. MNEs’ distributional effects show marked differences that largely depend on the host-country context, and that are positive for experienced and foreign-born employees in developed countries but negative for females working in developing countries. In developed countries the gender wage gap is smaller in MNEs than in domestic firms. The study finds evidence of a larger wage gap in developing countries. The analysis also reveals that the higher host-countries’ level of property rights protection, the lower the MNE wage premium. The study points at the need to reassess statements about the generic positive impact of MNEs in host countries, particularly in developing countries.

Nr 12. Provasi, Roberta, & Harasheh, Murad. (2021). Gender diversity and corporate performance: Emphasis on sustainability performance. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 28(1), 127-137.

Studying the Italian business context, this empirical research found women in the board significantly associated with corporate sustainability performance though not with the financial performance. Improved women representation also has an ethical score upgrade.

Nr 11. Shoham, Amir, Almor, Tamar, Lee, Sang Mook, & Ahammad, Mohammad F. (2017). Encouraging environmental sustainability through gender: A micro-foundational approach using linguistic gender marking. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(9), 1356-1379.

This empirical study examined data from 71 countries sampling 4500 organizations, and found that organizations become significantly more proactive in environmental sustainability with women in the board of directors, regardless the culture represented by the grammatical gender marking

Nr 10. Eden, Lorraine, & Wagstaff, M. Fernanda. (2021). Evidence-based policymaking and the wicked problem of sdg 5 gender equality. Journal of International Business Policy, 4(1), 28-57.

This article highlights that when policy makers are facing wicked problems, politics tend to trump evidence. Statistical evidence from gender inequality indexes to SDG 5’s targets and indicators are compared. The authors provide five insights into why and how good evidence is necessary but not sufficient for progress on SDG 5.

Nr 9. Marshall, Judi. (2011). En-gendering notions of leadership for sustainability. Gender Work and Organization, 18(3), 263-281.

The analysis found that women’s voices and images in addressing environmental issues change the landscape of sense-making, directing attention to broader society than to organizations to construct the notions of sustainability. Alternative gendered view of leadership for sustainability differs from the traditionally men-predominating discourses and practices.

Nr 8. De Silva, Dakshina G., & Pownall, Rachel A. J. (2014). Going green: Does it depend on education, gender or income? Applied Economics, 46(5), 573-586.

This survey study with over 1400 households in the Netherlands found that gender and education are important factors for sustainability than income levels. The educated females put the greatest value on ecology while being socially minded.

Nr 7. Khalikova, Venera R., Jin, Mushan, & Chopra, Shauhrat S. (2021). Gender in sustainability research: Inclusion, intersectionality, and patterns of knowledge production. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 25(4), 900-912.

This paper recommends a critical approach to gender in the sustainability studies, on the gender’s intersection with wage, age, and other demographic characteristics, taking gender as a constructed, intersectional, and dynamic category. In this way, these lenses enable better assessment of environmental impacts of industrial process. Currently most studies tend to equate gender with the role of women. This suggestion is based on a survey and a bibliometric analysis which showed a good level of gender inclusion in the collaboration, but gender issue remained marginal in the studies of industrial ecology, but more attention in other areas of sustainability research such as climate change, corporate social responsibility, food product, resource management, energy policy, and environmental behavior and education.

Nr 6. Nadeem, Muhammad, Bahadar, Stephen, Gull, Ammar Ali, & Iqbal, Umer. (2020). Are women eco-friendly? Board gender diversity and environmental innovation. Business Strategy and the Environment, 29(8), 3146-3161.

Board gender diversity are found to positively associated with environmental innovation and sustainability as the corporate environmental strategy. This relationship is more pronounced in less profitable firms and environmentally sensitive industries. This empirically study is conducted in the context of US listed firms.

Nr 5. Monteiro, Albertina Paula, Garcia-Sanchez, Isabel-Maria, & Aibar-Guzman, Beatriz. (2021). Labour practice, decent work and human rights performance and reporting: The impact of women managers. Journal of Business Ethics.

This paper uses a sample of 1243 international firms for the period 2013-2017 to analyse the effect that a greater presence of women in management teams has on business behaviour in relation to labour and human rights, and the mediating role of improved performance in these rights on corporate transparency. The results show that gender diversity in management teams is positively associated with performance in relation to labour and human rights, and that such a performance acts as a mediating factor by fostering a higher disclosure of information regarding these issues. The findings therefore seem to indicate that the presence of women in management teams acts as a driving force for enhanced social responsibility.

Nr 4. Qureshi, Muhammad Azeem, Kirkerud, Sina, Theresa, Kim, & Ahsan, Tanveer. (2020). The impact of sustainability (environmental, social, and governance) disclosure and board diversity on firm value: The moderating role of industry sensitivity. Business Strategy and the Environment, 29(3), 1199-1214.

Using a panel data of 812 European firms, a positive association of sustainability disclosure and board diversity (female presence) with the firm value. Sensitive industry plays the role of moderation. In this paper, the sustainability includes three dimensions: environmental, social, and governance.

Nr 3. Grimes, Matthew G., Gehman, Joel, & Cao, Ke. (2018). Positively deviant: Identity work through b corporation certification. Journal of Business Venturing, 33(2), 130-148.

The authors develop an identity-based framework for explaining heterogeneity in the adoption of sustainability certification. The results show that woman-owned businesses are twice as likely to qualify for certification and more than three times as likely to certify. Moreover, this propensity to certify is amplified in contexts where sustainability norms are weak, mimetic pressure to obtain sustainability certification is low, and woman-owned businesses are less prevalent. These findings support our central theoretical argument that certification differences are due to actors’ efforts to engage in identity work, strengthening their sense of self-coherence and distinctiveness by way of this authentication process.

Nr 2. Miska, Christof, Szocs, Ilona, & Schiffinger, Michael. (2018). Culture’s effects on corporate sustainability practices: A multi-domain and multi-level view. Journal of World Business, 53(2), 263-279.

With a triple-bottom-line lens on sustainability, this study examines the effects of culture on companies’ economic, social, and environmental sustainability practices. Drawing on institutional theory and project GLOBE, the authors delineate cultural practices dimensions that consistently predict sustainability practices related to each of the three domains. Based on a sample of 1924 companies in 36 countries and nine cultural clusters, findings suggest that future orientation, gender egalitarianism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance practices positively, and performance orientation practices negatively, predict corporate sustainability practices. Further, our findings suggest that these effects might vary according to the country vis-a-vis cluster level of analysis.

Nr 1. Garcia-Sanchez, Isabel-Maria, Suarez-Fernandez, Oscar, & Martinez-Ferrero, Jennifer. (2019). Female directors and impression management in sustainability reporting. International Business Review, 28(2), 359-374.

This study examines the relationship between board diversity, in terms of gender differences, and the quality of sustainability reporting, measured by several aspects: balance, conciseness, clarity, comparability and reliability of information. The findings suggest that boards with greater female representation decrease the risk of impression management strategies on sustainability disclosure. Female directors are positively associated with more balanced, comparable and reliable information; although, they are also associated with less precise and clear information, given their narrative character. These effects are greater in firms located in more stakeholder-oriented countries.