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


(Nicky Major) #141


Gerry, you are right about better data but many companies also need the business case. We need more companies to proactively manage their approach to gender because they intuitively know it is right and their leadership allows others to follow.


Gerry Boyle said:

Hester earlier today highlighted that the DFID survey that Business Fight Poverty ran as part of this Challenge showed that only a small number of businesses are looking closely at their value chains through a gendered lens: while a third of respondents collect data on the number of women-owned enterprises in their value chains, only 15% look into supplier’s gender awareness or equality policies, and only 13% have policies requiring suppliers to improve outcomes for women employees. So it looks like promoting women’s empowerment through value chains is not yet mainstream enough. Yet we know that women play a key role for instance in the supply of many commodities (we heard about cocoa earlier) yet women have much less access to extension services, inputs and finance than men. This lack of access by the people actually doing the work weakens the entire value chain. So, as Sumana pointed out earlier, businesses need much better data about where women are in their value chains, but also a lot more work on supporting them directly.


(georgie) #142

Hi Gianluca - hope you're well. in many cases, companies don't have visibility or direct access to farmers in their supply chains. We recognize we need to have greater visibility and transparency in some parts of our supply chain which we have started to do, however we need to depend on experts like CARE or others to facilitate that. what advice do you have for companies setting out to do this?



Gianluca Nardi said:

Hello, I'm Gianluca Nardi, Senior Women's Economic Empowerment Adviser in CIUK.

We have seen in Cocoa Life that women have an important role in cocoa production (and also in chocolate consumption) and quality even if this crop is normally considered a male crop. However, although at least 50% of the cocoa production activities are conducted by women, they have more limited access then men to training opportunities, credit, cooperatives membership.

It is important for companies to understand that women without access and control over productive resources along their supply chain, beyond being a social justice issue also represents an inefficiency from the business perspective and a missed opportunity to improve the quality and productivity of the supply. Once there is an internal buy-in on both the ethical and business case the company has the possibility to leverage a broad range of internal resources.

It is for this reason that Mondelez is investing important resources in improving their understanding about the progress of WEE in their supply chain in West Africa and to promote WEE.

Cocoa Life is also a great example of holistic approach to VC development that consider all the different dimensions that have an impact on the business enabling environment for coco producers and that sees WEE as a fundamental aspect.


(Emily) #143

Hi All

I am Emily Coates from PwC's Sustainability team - Coca-Cola are doing great things in this area. Monitoring and enabling the economic empowerment of women in their supply chain.


(Benjamin Zeitlyn) #144

I'm not convinced that skills training is the answer - see this study: https://t.co/urEMO3MRfE

What drives occupational segregation and glass ceilings in companies and through value chains?


(Gerry Boyle) #145

Shruthi - I think that some of the work that Stephanie barrientos (who commented earlier) has done is good stuff

Shruthi Jayaram said:


Absolutely agree - another nuance on the data need is that we don't know what works and what doesn't since many of these programs are new. Gerry, have you seen any evaluations that are robust/interesting that could shed light on this?

Gerry Boyle said:

Hester earlier today highlighted that the DFID survey that Business Fight Poverty ran as part of this Challenge showed that only a small number of businesses are looking closely at their value chains through a gendered lens: while a third of respondents collect data on the number of women-owned enterprises in their value chains, only 15% look into supplier’s gender awareness or equality policies, and only 13% have policies requiring suppliers to improve outcomes for women employees. So it looks like promoting women’s empowerment through value chains is not yet mainstream enough. Yet we know that women play a key role for instance in the supply of many commodities (we heard about cocoa earlier) yet women have much less access to extension services, inputs and finance than men. This lack of access by the people actually doing the work weakens the entire value chain. So, as Sumana pointed out earlier, businesses need much better data about where women are in their value chains, but also a lot more work on supporting them directly.


(Hester le Roux) #146

It seems people still have a lot to say about value chains! Please be sure to refer back to comments starting on page 1 of this discussion for earlier observations as well. Can we have some thoughts on how companies are empowering women through their internal policies and practices? What are the most crucial areas for action, and what is working well?


(Alex MacGillivray) #147

Do participants think the business case is already definitively established? I personally thought it was, but seems maybe some business audiences take more convincing. We also find that some business leaders get the case at the level of watching a TED talk or an HBR article - but with limited management bandwidth, they don't necessarily know which levers are easy to move and have a big effect in their own company right now.


(Shruthi Jayaram) #148

Hi Gerry, the program evolved over time to include men and local communities in the training. They actually publish update reports periodically on the website, fascinating way to see how the program changes and adapts.

Gerry Boyle said:


Shruthi - Hi. Did Nestle find much pushback from the male farmers or local communities on the training of women?
Shruthi Jayaram said:

Shruthi: Companies can support programs that actively train women and suppliers/distributors along their value chain. We have seen Nestle, for example, do this with the cocoa supply chain (See our report: The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment: An Integrated Approach)


(Gerry Boyle) #149


Benjamin - I think that many of us would agree that skills training is not the only answer - it seems that occupational segregation starts at a much earlier age - see the comments about cocoa being a "male" crop earlier. A lot depends on where in the value chain we are looking - formal employment in UK HQ vs precarious employment in a factory vs smallholders
Benjamin Zeitlyn said:

I'm not convinced that skills training is the answer - see this study: https://t.co/urEMO3MRfE

What drives occupational segregation and glass ceilings in companies and through value chains?


(georgie) #150

We're finding strong leadership at the most senior levels, mentoring and networking programmes, targets for women in leadership supported by initiatives that drive cultural change to be a diverse and inclusive team, unconscious bias training are all helping to make progress.


(Emily) #151

Good point - there is a lot of evidence out there to back up the importance and efficacy of women's economic empowerment - but it is not universally known or acknowledged.

Alex MacGillivray said:

Do participants think the business case is already definitively established? I personally thought it was, but seems maybe some business audiences take more convincing. We also find that some business leaders get the case at the level of watching a TED talk or an HBR article - but with limited management bandwidth, they don't necessarily know which levers are easy to move and have a big effect in their own company right now.


(Shruthi Jayaram) #152

Benjamin, agree that looking at root causes is important and training is only part of the solution.

Benjamin Zeitlyn said:

I'm not convinced that skills training is the answer - see this study: https://t.co/urEMO3MRfE

What drives occupational segregation and glass ceilings in companies and through value chains?


(Gianluca Nardi) #153

Hi Georgie,

Civil society organizations like CARE might have the visibility on local producers and producers organizations and the capacity to convene local stakeholders to facilitate the connection with companies. Facilitation is normally our role in supply chains.

georgie said:

Hi Gianluca - hope you're well. in many cases, companies don't have visibility or direct access to farmers in their supply chains. We recognize we need to have greater visibility and transparency in some parts of our supply chain which we have started to do, however we need to depend on experts like CARE or others to facilitate that. what advice do you have for companies setting out to do this?



Gianluca Nardi said:

Hello, I'm Gianluca Nardi, Senior Women's Economic Empowerment Adviser in CIUK.

We have seen in Cocoa Life that women have an important role in cocoa production (and also in chocolate consumption) and quality even if this crop is normally considered a male crop. However, although at least 50% of the cocoa production activities are conducted by women, they have more limited access then men to training opportunities, credit, cooperatives membership.

It is important for companies to understand that women without access and control over productive resources along their supply chain, beyond being a social justice issue also represents an inefficiency from the business perspective and a missed opportunity to improve the quality and productivity of the supply. Once there is an internal buy-in on both the ethical and business case the company has the possibility to leverage a broad range of internal resources.

It is for this reason that Mondelez is investing important resources in improving their understanding about the progress of WEE in their supply chain in West Africa and to promote WEE.

Cocoa Life is also a great example of holistic approach to VC development that consider all the different dimensions that have an impact on the business enabling environment for coco producers and that sees WEE as a fundamental aspect.


(Hester le Roux) #154

We will leave it there for the first two questions - though please remember that you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended.
Turning now to our third question, and we’ll spend a bit more time on this one:

SESSION 2, Q3: How can business use external marketing and customer engagement to support women’s economic empowerment?


(Polly Le Grand) #155

I think we need to make the case at two levels: the overall case, and then the case for taking specific actions.

Emily said:

Good point - there is a lot of evidence out there to back up the importance and efficacy of women's economic empowerment - but it is not universally known or acknowledged.

Alex MacGillivray said:

Do participants think the business case is already definitively established? I personally thought it was, but seems maybe some business audiences take more convincing. We also find that some business leaders get the case at the level of watching a TED talk or an HBR article - but with limited management bandwidth, they don't necessarily know which levers are easy to move and have a big effect in their own company right now.


(georgie) #156

I agree - while there is plenty of evidence for the business case, in my experience in Asia, there is a slow adoption or integration by businesses or industries

Emily said:

Good point - there is a lot of evidence out there to back up the importance and efficacy of women's economic empowerment - but it is not universally known or acknowledged.

Alex MacGillivray said:

Do participants think the business case is already definitively established? I personally thought it was, but seems maybe some business audiences take more convincing. We also find that some business leaders get the case at the level of watching a TED talk or an HBR article - but with limited management bandwidth, they don't necessarily know which levers are easy to move and have a big effect in their own company right now.


(Jerry Marshall) #157

I co-founded an Impact investment company in Bethlehem, providing jobs, skills, invisible exports and bridging the political divide. So a for-profit commercial company (lets try to avoid offering charity) but the prime purpose is social, responding to the resources and constraints of the West Bank. We try to model gender equality and integrity. Our CEO is a Palestinian woman. After growing 250% last year we have 80 staff and made a small profit.

It seems to me we need to support role models. The women in the Middle East are conservative by Western standard and are not necessarily asked for empowerment. Our CEO wants to do an MBA so help would be good (though there are some scholarships)!. We also need to work with the culture - talking with fathers and husbands to reassure them, and providing transport home for those on shifts.


(Nicky Major) #158

Alex, I think you are right. There is plenty of evidence but it is the 'so now what do we do' that is still a challenge for many companies. Those that are leading the way need to share their experience to help others.

Alex MacGillivray said:

Do participants think the business case is already definitively established? I personally thought it was, but seems maybe some business audiences take more convincing. We also find that some business leaders get the case at the level of watching a TED talk or an HBR article - but with limited management bandwidth, they don't necessarily know which levers are easy to move and have a big effect in their own company right now.


(Shruthi Jayaram) #159

We are seeing in India a range of businesses starting to acknowledge gender dynamics in their advertising, which is very interesting. Prominent examples are the recent ads by companies like Tanishq (jewelry) and Ariel (laundry detergent) that acknowledge skewed gender roles explicitly. While not directly supporting economic empowerment (rather, social empowerment), it's an interesting use case for businesses to bring in women consumers.

Hester le Roux said:

We will leave it there for the first two questions - though please remember that you can keep adding comments to the conversation after this session has ended.
Turning now to our third question, and we’ll spend a bit more time on this one:

SESSION 2, Q3: How can business use external marketing and customer engagement to support women’s economic empowerment?


(Hester le Roux) #160

Regarding question 3, I referred earlier to the DFID Survey we are running as part of this Challenge. In terms of external marketing and custome engagement aimed at supporting women’s empowerment, around a quarter of the 148 respondents have policies on responsible advertising, such as against objectifying women or perpetuating gender stereotypes. What are some of the best practice examples you have seen?