Pursuing paradoxes: the strategic return of essentialism: diversity as business case
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The business case for women (as researched and promoted by companies such as McKinsey & Company, Deloitte and Catalyst) offers an interesting dilemma as far as women's emancipation is concerned: does women's emancipation improve at the moment that more women have a seat in a company's board, or will the asymmetry between men and women continue to exist if discursive aspects aren't addressed? The logic behind the business case is that the presence of women has a positive effect on an organization's profits because of women's feminine qualities (although economists acknowledge the difficulty in finding a causal link). In this aspect the business case can be viewed as essentialist. However, according to sexual difference-theory scholar Braidotti, the (strategic, see Spivak) mimicry of the phallogocentric discourse - in order to invent "woman" from women's perspectives,or to claim agency - leads to a possibility for change. Women need to act as if stereotypes are true, or believe that all women share some kind of essence, so that they become motivated to bring about change, but also, paradoxically, to be able to change the existing meaning attributed to "woman". In other words: you have to become what you are perceived to be if you want to prove that this assumption is false. This reasoning provides a fitting answer to those who believe that sex shouldn't be a criterium in electing people at the top of any kind of organization. The business case for women is a plea for their inclusion motivated by economic reasons. But the basis for women's inclusion should not be solely economic: too often and too easily emancipatory arguments are dismissed. Sex does matter. For the purpose of equality, it shouldn't just be about numbers but even more so, it should be a matter of representation of and by women in society AND businesses within that society. More women in high-powered functions may be good for company profits, for women's emancipation (gaining subjectivity as opposed to objectivity) it is even better, and for equality between the sexes it is best.