Public Private Partnerships for Women's Empowerment: Enpowerment for Whom?

Charlotte Sølling

Student thesis: Master thesis


Gender inequality is a prevailing issue in developing countries, where women are disadvantaged in various aspects of life from households and communities to societies at large. To solve the problem of gender inequality, new actors have begun to claim presence in international affairs, where the limitations of public efforts and policies have become apparent. Consequently, public and private actors are initiating new forms of governance arrangements to empower women in developing countries. Corporations participating in public-private partnerships are to solve complex developmental issues, which were previously to reside with traditional development actors and nation-states. This thesis has critically examined the research question on how private corporations are legitimizing themselves as global governance actors of women’s empowerment and how they portray the women they are to govern in this process. The answer to that question is rooted in legitimacy. The concept serves as a mechanism to understand how partnerships become accepted as a relevant alternative to government policy. Legitimacy was analysed through critical discourse analysis with an interdisciplinary perspective from institutional theory to examine how corporations are legitimizing themselves and the women they are to govern.
The thesis found that the two corporations analysed are using various textual, linguistic and discursive means to portray themselves as legitimate governance actors. In the legitimizing process, the corporations portray women in developing countries as reliable on empowering interventions. Women’s empowerment is described through institutionalized business rationalities whereby the corporations are portraying themselves as capable of realizing this empowerment. The analysis found that the corporations are seeking authoritative positions in guiding and setting standards for traditional development actors. This has important implications as the corporate way of conceptualizing empowerment for women may have impact on how other or similar governance actors define empowerment. The way the corporations are legitimizing themselves as global governance actors can therefore have future implication for global governance of women’s empowerment.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages121