chapter  12
18 Pages

The wins of corporate gender equality politics

Coca-Cola and female micro-entrepreneurship in South Africa
WithSofie Tornhill

Whereas widely denounced for their lack of gender perspective in the past, private businesses have increasingly emerged as vocal proponents of women’s empowerment. This development is often presented as a “win–win situation”, and as such, beneficial for corporate growth, gender equality and community development more broadly. However, the effects of this type of corporate initiative remain surprisingly under-researched, especially from the perspectives of participating women. In an attempt to address this deficit, this chapter draws on ethnographic fieldwork in South Africa to explore The Coca-Cola Company’s global programme “5by20”, which has the stated objective to empower 5 million female micro-entrepreneurs in marginalized, informal sectors of the economy by 2020. It details how women who have participated in business training as part of the programme navigate between promises of economic integration and persistent precariousness. Thereby, the prospects for the win–win effects between business interests and women’s empowerment are scrutinized against the backdrop of contextually shaped economic conditions and globalized business practices.