How can business most effectively support women’s economic empowerment, through their value chains and beyond?


(Business Fights Poverty) #1

Georgie Passalaris: Skills and Empowerment Manager, Sustainable Development - Diageo
Gerry Boyle: Senior Policy Adviser on Private Sector Engagement - CARE International
Sumana Hussain and Polly Le Grand: Women’s Empowerment Team, DFID
Nicky Major: Global Corporate Responsibility Leader, EY
Alex MacGillivray: Director, Development Impact, CDC
Sarah Hyder: Head of Strategic Communications, CDC
Shruthi Jayaram and Tania Beard: Co-Leads: Gender Expertise Area - Dalberg
Jonathan Horrell: Director Sustainability, Mondelez International
Hester Le Roux: Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty (Moderator)

The issue of women’s access to economic opportunities has attracted renewed international attention this year with the launch in January of the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening is a Panel member and has initiated an extensive UK-based consultation to gather views from across civil society, business and other sectors on how best to promote and support women’s economic empowerment.

As part of this consultation process, Business Fights Poverty and CARE International UK are bringing together businesses and their NGO partners to focus on how business can most effectively support women’s economic empowerment through their value chains and beyond. The online discussions on 19 May 2016 are the first of a series of events organised as part of this Challenge.

Questions for discussion

This online discussion will address the Challenge question: How can business most effectively support women’s economic empowerment, through their value chains and beyond?

Specifically, we would like to explore the following questions:

1. How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?

2. How can companies’ internal policies and practices contribute to greater economic empowerment for women?

3. How can business use external marketing and customer engagement to support women’s economic empowerment?

4. Which actions should companies take (possibly in partnership with governments/donors/civil society) to tackle wider systemic constraints to women’s empowerment, such as access to finance?


We would like to hear from you about the most effective ways in which business can help empower women: is it action in one of the four areas listed here, or perhaps another kind of intervention altogether? Share your experience and examples, tell us what work and where further action is needed.

Editor's Note:

Welcome to this online written discussion. This discussion will run twice to facilitate engagement from different time zones. To post comments you will need to sign in / sign up to Business Fights Poverty. A list of recent comments is shown in the right-hand side bar and will refresh every 5 minutes. To refresh more often, please click on the refresh icon in your browser or on the link below.


(Arjan de Haan) #2

Looking forward to join this discussion. IDRC's GrOW program is bringing together evidence on what works in supporting women-owned businesses. Today we are bringing together a group of experts to help synthesize evidence. Initial findings are here: https://arjandehaan.wordpress.com/. This work is done in partnership with DFID, The Hewlett Foundation, WEConnect, and The Urban Institute.


(Gerry Boyle) #3

CARE International are committed to Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) and we are excited by the "once in a lifetime opportunity" that the UN High Level Panel (HLP) represents for massive progress on women’s economic empowerment, as emphasised by Justine Greening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development and a HLLP member. Key areas for us in WEE are access to finance, value chains and decent work, all of which we hope will be covered. So we are really pleased to be participating in this online discussion.


(Arjan de Haan) #4

I posted some learnings from our discussion here in DC at https://arjandehaan.wordpress.com/.

Arjan de Haan said:

Looking forward to join this discussion. IDRC's GrOW program is bringing together evidence on what works in supporting women-owned businesses. Today we are bringing together a group of experts to help synthesize evidence. Initial findings are here: https://arjandehaan.wordpress.com/. This work is done in partnership with DFID, The Hewlett Foundation, WEConnect, and The Urban Institute.


(Sumana Hussain) #5

The UN Secretary General has appointed the High Level Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment, bringing together influential leaders from government, business, academia, and civil society. With the agreement of the Global Goals, including Goal 5 on gender equality, there is a unique opportunity to raise global ambition and leadership for women’s economic empowerment.

The Panel will create a focal point for political support to build momentum around achieving the Global Goals and targets to empower women, particularly those on access to resources, better jobs and working conditions and reducing unpaid work. The Panel will publish a report in September 2016, which will recommend actions that can be taken by governments, citizens, business and international institutions.

The recommendations from the High Level Panel need to resonate across those with the power to make the changes. This discussion on how business can support women’s economic empowerment in its value chains and beyond provides an opportunity to share experiences and insights on what kinds of action can really make a difference. It is part of our activities in the UK to support the Secretary of State for International Development in her role as a Panel member. Looking forward to the discussion!


(Bianca Shead) #6

One of the opportunities/challenges that I've been hearing is about how we link Women's Empowerment to all of the SDGs. Is this realistic and, if so, how do companies manage it in a way which doesn't feel like diluting focus?


(Hester le Roux) #7

Welcome to this live chat about How business can support Women’s Economic Empowerment through value chains and beyond. I’m Hester le Roux, Challenge Director at Business Fights Poverty and I’ll be moderating the session.

We're joined by a great panel today to help us understand what business is already doing to support women’s empowerment, and what more can be done to achieve scale and impact.

In terms of the format for this one hour live session, we will work our way through the four questions set out in the introduction above. Click 'Reply' under a question or comment to add your thoughts. And please do feel free to put your own questions to our panel by typing in the comments box above. (You'll need to sign in or sign up to do this).

You'll see a feed of comments in the right hand column of this page, with a notification of new messages appearing regularly at the top. Click refresh in your browser to display all the new comments, in time order, below.

Before we begin, I'd like to ask each our our panellists to introduce themselves.


(Gerry Boyle) #8

Hi I am Gerry Boyle I am looking forward to today’s discussions. I am representing CARE International - a global humanitarian and development agency working in 80 countries, with a strong commitment to women’s economic empowerment and a target of supporting the economic empowerment of 30 million women by 2020. Our key areas for doing this are financial inclusion, value chains, decent work and entrepreneurs. We know that within economic empowerment we really need to change the social norms and expectations that hold women back. And we know, from working with companies such as Barclays, GSK and Mondelez, that business can really make a difference.


(Alex MacGillivray) #9

Hi, this is Alex MacGillivray. I'm in charge of development impact at CDC. CDC is the UK's development finance institution. We have a portfolio of around 600 investments in businesses in Africa and South Asia. Our goal is more and better jobs.


(Nicky Major) #10

Hi, I’m Nicky Major from EY, a global professional services organization. I lead our corporate social responsibility activity. Diversity and inclusiveness is a business issue for us both within our organization and outside. We know our teams work better with a good gender balance and companies large and small work better when they have more women involved. We also recognise the huge opportunity there is for getting more women actively involved in the global economy and our purpose is to help build a better working world.


(Sumana Hussain) #11

Hello everyone! I’m an economist at DFID, working on women’s economic empowerment. This includes supporting DFID’s programming on women’s economic empowerment, working on our broader economic development work to ensure positive impacts on women and girls and, most recently, supporting the work on the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment


(Hester le Roux) #12

Thank you panellists. As you all know, this discussion forms part of the BFP/CARE Challenge on Women’s Economic Empowerment, supported by DFID and Diageo. It’s one of a series of events and other activities we are organising, all aimed at generating messages to the High Level Panel.

You will find some introductory comments about the High Level Panel from Sumana here.

While the subject of private sector support for women’s economic empowerment is obviously huge and complex, we are focusing today on four particular areas where companies can make a meaningful contribution: value chains; internal policies and practices; external marketing and customer engagement; and addressing systemic barriers.

Our panellists have expertise in one or more of these areas and will share their insights on how business can most effectively support women’s empowerment. Then we want to hear from you about your own experiences and the lessons you have learnt: what works? What needs more work? How can successful programmes be scaled up? And what can governments and donor organisations do to help ensure more companies take effective action to support women’s empowerment?

Let’s dive straight into the first question:


(Hester le Roux) #13

SESSION 1, Q1: How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?


(Jonathan Horrell) #14

Hello everyone. I’m Jonathan Horrell, director of sustainability at Mondelez International - the company behind many of the world’s best known snacks, like Cadbury, Milka and Toblerone chocolate and Oreo and Lu biscuits. Working with CARE, VSO and other partners, we include a focus on women’s empowerment in our Cocoa Life program to create thriving cocoa farming communities.

Hester le Roux said:

Welcome to this live chat about How business can support Women’s Economic Empowerment through value chains and beyond. I’m Hester le Roux, Challenge Director at Business Fights Poverty and I’ll be moderating the session.

We're joined by a great panel today to help us understand what business is already doing to support women’s empowerment, and what more can be done to achieve scale and impact.

In terms of the format for this one hour live session, we will work our way through the four questions set out in the introduction above. Click 'Reply' under a question or comment to add your thoughts. And please do feel free to put your own questions to our panel by typing in the comments box above. (You'll need to sign in or sign up to do this).

You'll see a feed of comments in the right hand column of this page, with a notification of new messages appearing regularly at the top. Click refresh in your browser to display all the new comments, in time order, below.

Before we begin, I'd like to ask each our our panellists to introduce themselves.


(Gerry Boyle) #15

Women play a key role in value chains, although this has only recently begun to be recognised by many companies, as traditionally farming in many crops was seen as being a “male” activity. Work in cocoa for instance, although it was traditionally seen as a “male” crop” shows that a high proportion of the key steps in cocoa processing are actually done by women. Therefore it is key to the future of many commodities to overcome the shocking underrepresentation of women in those who have access to extension services, inputs and finance. This lack of access weakens the entire value chain.


(Jonathan Horrell) #16

We believe that gender equality benefits everyone and is essential if cocoa communities are to thrive. In 2014, we published third-party assessments by Harvard University and CARE International that revealed striking gaps in income and opportunities for female cocoa farmers. For example, in Ghana, female cocoa farmers earn 25-30 percent less than their male counterparts. And in Côte d’Ivoire, women in cocoa communities earn up to 70 percent less than men. In both countries, women struggle with lower farm productivity, smaller farms and less access to financing and farm inputs.

Supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment not only helps women to better support their families and contribute to the development of their communities, but ultimately secures the future supply of cocoa by improving its productivity and quality.



Hester le Roux said:

SESSION 1, Q1: How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?


(Margaux Yost) #17

Hello, This is Margaux Yost from Business for Social Responsibility's HERproject - a global public-private partnership to empower low income women working in global supply chains. I manage our East Africa programs.

I look forward to hearing from everyone!


(Gerry Boyle) #18

From CARE’s many years of experience working in agricultural value chains, we think that some of the key issues on women are – identifying where women are working in the value chain, taking a systems approach, looking at where risk lies, innovation and getting to scale. (See our report: “Adding Value to Value Chains”, http://bit.ly/1PKEKJ0 )


(Sumana Hussain) #19

I think plugging the data and knowledge gap in this area is critical and business can play a key role in doing this. Through their supply chains business can have access to information on the types of work that women do and their economic contribution. Setting up systems to collect information on how women participate at various stages of production in supply chains would make an invaluable contribution to our understanding. As long as women’s work remains invisible and uncounted we cannot design effective strategies to improve their economic outcomes.


(Tania Beard) #20

Good morning everyone. I’m representing Dalberg Global Development Advisors, a strategic advisory firm focused exclusively on global development (www.dalberg.com). I’m a Project Manager in Dalberg's Dakar office and work across the public, private and non-profit sectors in the areas of gender, inclusive growth, agriculture, access to finance, and education. I co-lead Dalberg’s global Gender Expertise Area.