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


(sharon olivia mcclenaghan) #81

This discussion is great, thank you. Can I also ask, how exactly are we defining economic empowerment? Apart from increasing women's access to resources and skills, to what extent is 'agency' also included? i.e. the power and agency to benefit from these activities, to act on decisions and control resources and profits? I understand this is much more complex but I wonder if businesses are starting also to address this.


(Nicky Major) #82

Hi Esther, I completely agree. Understanding all forms of diversity, and associated discrimination, is vital. What I see in the corporate world is that organizations that are leading the way in gender diversity are also leading around other diversity strands. They've understood and experienced the value of diversity in all its forms. Gender is a good place to start because it has such huge potential to contribute in so many ways - and it is easily measured and monitored - but bringing in other elements is very important. The different perspectives that diversity brings are so important.

esther arthur said:

Hi Nicky, Esther Arthur from the INGO Sightsavers. I think you make a great point that diversity isnt enough, you need to have an inclusive approach. What are your thoughts on internal policies expanding the definition of inclusion to reach women with disabilities who are often faced with double discrimination and arent granted access to empowerment porgrammes?


(Hester le Roux) #83

I’m conscious of the time. Let’s move on to our final question (and remember you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended):

SESSION 1, Q4: 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?


(Alex MacGillivray) #84

I've noticed that many businesses are launching "moonshots" - big aspirational targets. Nike just did it. Unilever has done it. What would be a stretch target for business on women's empowerment?


(Parvez Mohammad Asheque) #85

Q4:

Let me give an example, yet again from the RMG sector of Bangladesh. Overwhelming majority of the workforce being women, sexual and reproductive health rights and access matters a lot for productivity of the sector and wellbeing of its workforce. Concerted efforts of the RMG industry, in association with civil societies and government, can bring on systemic changes to address issues of poor realization of sexual and reproductive health rights and access to services. The sector needs a health policy and health financing scheme that cannot be adopted and /or implemented by the industries alone. There has to be some measures of social protection by the state. Civil societies have been crucial in engaging with women in influencing their understanding of rights and responsibilities, as well as behavior change towards health seeking attitude.

In terms of access to finance, an ongoing pilot initiative of CARE with VISA Inc. has partnered with a few readymade garment industries where 800 women workers are targeted with interventions that seek to address their constraints within family, community and markets to financial inclusion. These women have little control over their income, lack access to a secure platform to save money and existing financial services of the commercial banks are not targeting them as clients. The project has researched and developed evidence to demonstrate its understanding of the needs of these women, offered them financial literacy, and engaged male in their communities in the process. With positive changes in the ecosystem, a commercial bank has come forward to pilot an agent banking model to include these women in their banking system, as well as develop responsive products and services targeted to this customer segment.


(Gerry Boyle) #86

Sharon

Certainly in CARE's work, agency is key and the women's savings groups that are a cornerstone of many of our programmes put a lot of emphasis on agency and voice by developing skills, self-awareness and confidence. That's why we have found that they can engage with major issues of social norms including share of care and difficult problems like GBV

sharon olivia mcclenaghan said:

How are we defining economic empowerment? Apart from increasing women's access to resources and skills, to what extent is 'agency' also included? i.e. the power and agency to benefit from these activities, to act on decisions and control resources and profits?


(Sumana Hussain) #87

There are products and services that can have a disproportionately positive impact on women and girls – energy, transport, hygiene, and others. But opportunities for impact can be missed if we are not aware of the gender-specific effects of some of these things.

Getting insights from women and girls on what their needs are as consumers, and the types of delivery mechanisms that are most likely to reach them, is key. This is something we’re trying to do with early stage enterprises with a range of products and services through the SPRING accelerator programme.



Hester le Roux said:

Turning now to our third question:

SESSION 1, Q3: How can business use external marketing and customer engagement to support women’s economic empowerment?


(Fiona Jarden) #88


I definitely agree with you there Alex. Quality financial products and services for women and savings groups need to go on the market, including low-fee accounts and competitive interest rates, as well as products that can meet the needs of informal savings groups. We recently finished mapping the types of products and services offered by organisations to savings groups through the State of Linkage report


Alex MacGillivray said:

Women in Business is a programme set up by DFCU bank in Uganda to do exactly that. dfcugroup.com/women-in-business GBA-W is doing a great job of persuading other banks globally to design better products for women customers.


(Jonathan Horrell) #89

In each Cocoa Life origin, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Indonesia, our program team works closely with NGO, supplier and government partners to develop plans and assess progress. Together, stakeholders review baseline data and evaluations against Cocoa Life KPIs; as well as quarterly activity reviews by implementing partners (NGOs and suppliers). In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, the group is chaired by the Conseil du Café Cacao, enabling a two-way exchange of learnings and experience between Cocoa Life and the wider cocoa sector.

Hester le Roux said:

I’m conscious of the time. Let’s move on to our final question (and remember you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended):

SESSION 1, Q4: 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?


(georgie) #90

Companies or industries can lead change through collaboration to address issues such as safety for women – Diageo was one of the founding members of the Beer Selling Industry Cambodia (BSIC) which with leadership from CARE International, implemented a code of conduct to improve the health and working conditions of beer promoters in Cambodia, who faced regular sexual harassment and misconduct or exploitation. The code covers 7 key standards around: employment status; organization of work; uniform; transport; training and information; harassment; alcohol information, as well as regular independent research to evaluate performance against commitments and guide improvements. This has demonstrated increased awareness of workers’ benefits and rights, a drop in sexual harassment and an increase in the number of beer promoters addressing incidents of sexual harassment directly, indicating improved working conditions for beer promoters covered by the BSIC’s code of conduct, compared with those who are not.


(Alex MacGillivray) #91

Everyone is focused on access to finance, rightly, but access to electricity, sanitation, connectivity and mobility are equally important for women. We need to be more joined up.


(Nicky Major) #92

Gerry, many of our people go through our unconscious bias training which helps them recognise their own biases and those of others, and then to actively manage them. In terms of recruitment and promotions etc we very actively manage the profiles so we know that bias isn't playing a part. Data and the analysis of it is very powerful in exposing it and preventing it.

Gerry Boyle said:

Nicky, agreed but do you have deliberate policies to tackle unconscious biases as well as asking people to understand them? E.g. have you changed promotion and recruitment policies to overcome unconscious bias?

Nicky Major said:

As well a policy and process in the work place we need to help people understand their unconscious biases. Everyone has them - but it is about understanding them and managing them so you can take deliberate steps to ensure they don't negatively impact any activity.


(Sumana Hussain) #93

On Question 4 -

The constraints to women’s economic empowerment that are systemic, in my view, are those that keep women out of the most productive and highest growth sectors – and these apply in varying degrees across all countries. These include access to finance but also lower human capital, discriminatory legal frameworks, unequal distribution of care work and social norms that reinforce occupational segregation.

There are many types of actions that businesses can take to address these, themselves and in partnerships – such as prioritising financial literacy and inclusion for their women employees, supporting their employees (women and men!) in their care responsibilities, encouraging women entrepreneurs to join supply chains in non-traditional sectors, and advocating for legal and policy changes to tackle discrimination. It would be really interesting to hear your examples of these types of interventions and some of these have come up already in the discussion!


(Fiona Jarden) #94

Also in relation to Q4

We know that one of the most effective women’s economic empowerment initiatives is access to savings. However, globally only 58 per cent of women have an account (Global Findex, 2014). CARE International’s decades of experience working in this area has proven that even the poorest, those living on less than $2, can save and become viable customers. So as first step, banks need to roll out entry-level products for low-income segments starting with low-cost savings accounts.

An effective means for formal finance organisations and telecommunication companies to reach women and other unbanked consumers by using informal savings groups as an entry strategy. Savings groups enable individuals to save and borrow small amounts to smooth consumption and irregular earning patterns. Currently there are at least 11.5 million informal savings groups members made up of 75% women (State of Linkage report), who are each saving approximately $89 per member a year (Banking on Change), and have the potential to bring in $1 billion a year in liquidity for banks. To connect these groups to formal finance requires a concerted effort by governments and the private sector to remove existing barriers to linking with savings groups.

Governments and the private sector should be investing in better digital distribution channels to create accessible means for the rural poor to access formal finance. Digital based services break down traditional barriers to accessing financial services, including overcoming issues associated with the cost and opportunity for rural women to access branches in distant and difficult to reach urban centres. Partnerships between telecommunication and formal financial services are needed to enable women, especially rural women, to access formal banking products remotely, as well as the scaling up of responsible mobile money operators. Governments must invest more in expanding coverage of mobile broadband networks to underserved populations.

Quality financial products and services for women and savings groups must go on the market, including low-fee accounts and competitive interest rates. Currently only 40% of banks offer savings groups a product beyond credit. Lastly, formal finance organisations and governments must have financial inclusion strategies, and which support more enabling registration and criteria requirements for low-income segments. Poorer women lack formal identification, which inhibits them from meeting Know Your Customer requirements for opening accounts. As a solution, governments should invest in fast-tracking a national identification system , enabling one form of identification for all citizens to make KYC processes for clients and banks alike quick, easy and compliant.


(georgie) #95

Raising awareness of the issues through engagement: systemic challenges for women exist in the hospitality industry in which women dominate the workforce (between 60-70%) however often working in the most vulnerable jobs where they are more likely to experience poor working conditions, inequality of opportunity and treatment, violence, exploitation, stress and sexual harassment” (Baum, 2013) and leadership positions are not representative of this gender advantage. The growth in the sector presents talent challenges that can be addressed by more inclusive policies and practices. A collaborative White Paper on Women in Hospitality and Tourism shares some ideas and best practice examples.



Hester le Roux said:

I’m conscious of the time. Let’s move on to our final question (and remember you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended):

SESSION 1, Q4: 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?


(Jonathan Horrell) #96

We’re accelerating women’s empowerment in #cocoa through an industry-wide strategy known as CocoaAction http://ow.ly/4nvaeQ



Hester le Roux said:

I’m conscious of the time. Let’s move on to our final question (and remember you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended):

SESSION 1, Q4: 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?


(Tania Beard) #97

Access to finance key but interventions still not coordinated. We see that demand side interventions are most common, but coordinated supply and demand side interventions work best

On the demand side, we recently completed a market overview of private sector companies’ commitments of over $300 million to support women’s economic empowerment worldwide.[1] On the whole, the majority of programs focus on increasing women’s access to finance by increasing their awareness of financial products or business and literacy training.

http://dalberg.com/documents/Business_Case_for_Womens_Economic_Empowerment.pdf


(Gerry Boyle) #98

On Systemic change - Both women’s access to savings and their role in value chains are areas where real change has to be systemic, and that’s why CARE is working with SABMiller, Business Fights Poverty and the Harvard Kennedy School on research on how business can best engage in changing value chains and the surrounding systems to better support micro-enterprises, a high proportion of which are women. The research will hopefully be published in early July.


(Alex MacGillivray) #99

is there a chance to dig into these topics in real depth as part of the high level panel - the ODI session on Monday and this have been great but I feel we're just getting started...


(Hester le Roux) #100

I’m afraid that’s all we have time for in this sessions. Please do keep posting your examples of successful policies (as well as lessons around what doesn’t work!).

Thank you so much to our panellists for being so generous with your time and insights. And thank you to everyone from the Business Fights Poverty community who joined in - we appreciate your support for this Challenge and your sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

Just a reminder that there will be a second session this afternoon, to give our members in the US and Latin America a chance to join in. The session will start at 15.00 BST/10.00 EST.

We will incorporate key messages from these discussions into our report to the UK Secretary of State and Panellists to the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, Justine Greening.