Beyond the boardroom: 5 tips for improving gender equality across the value chain

By Sophie Edwards 08 May 2017

Barry Callebaut, a leading supplier of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, invited two female managers from Ivory Coast to visit its factory in Belgium and talk about their challenges on the ground. Photo by: The Barry Callebaut Group / CC BY-NC

The economic case for investing in women is now well established. A report from McKinsey estimates that between $12 trillion and $28 trillion could be added to the global economy every year by 2025 if women were to obtain equal access and rights in labor markets. Empowering women has been shown to be good for a business’s balance sheet, and companies with diverse workforces are more likely to outperform their peers.

Despite this, many businesses are still lagging behind. Recent research indicates that, at current rates of progress, full economic equality could take another 170 years to achieve. Today, women are still less likely than men to have paid jobs. Of those who do, they earn little over half as much as men on average, according to the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap study.

While the business case for gender equality in the office and in the boardroom is strong, there is a less frequently articulated but equally transformative case to be made for applying a gender lens across the value chain — focusing on women actors in the supply chain, as customers, and as members of the local communities within which a company operates.

Cultural barriers need to be challenged to close the gender digital divide

Cultural and social norms are one of the most significant, yet largely ignored, barriers preventing women and girls accessing mobile phones and the internet. In some cases they have even resulted in death and rape. Devex spoke to gender tech experts to see what can be done to challenge these powerful forces.

This is the view of the International Center for Research on Women’s new advisory practice, which draws on ICRW’s four decades of research and thought-leadership on gender in low- and middle-income countries to help businesses and nonprofits realize the social and economic benefits of empowering women throughout their value chains, according to project manager Genevieve Smith.

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About the author

Edwards sopie
Sophie Edwards

Sophie Edwards is a reporter for Devex based out of Washington D.C. and London where she covers global development news, careers and lifestyle issues. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.

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