Gender equality: it’s your business – especially if that’s food…
Liz Kirk Global Adviser, Private Sector
14th Oct 2011
Saturday 15 October is International Rural Women's Day, Liz Kirk uses this as a timely reminder of business's role in promoting gender equality in their supply chains and sourcing practices.
This weekend marks two days that - like it or not - should be of increasing relevance to us all: World Food Day, on Sunday 16 October, reminds us how upswings in food prices are hitting the poorest hardest. And Saturday, World Food Day's eve, is International Rural Women's Day.
The running together of these two days is no accident - celebrating rural women before highlighting trends in world food production reminds us of the huge contribution that women make to agricultural productivity, rural development and food security the world over. A contribution that is normally underplayed and also, frequently, unpaid.
In an upcoming Oxfam publication - Gender Inequality: it's your Business - we make the case that the great majority of businesses are still missing a trick in tackling gender inequality in their employment practices, their supply chains, and in their sourcing practices. While the macro-economic business case for decreasing gender inequality is largely won, best symbolised perhaps by this month's release of the World Bank's 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, the business community appears slow to examine how it can apply the same formula to commerce.
Yet, take food production:
Women now produce up to 80% of food in some regions: for example, Pakistan is the world's fifth largest producer of milk, with women performing 60-80% of cattle feeding, caring and milking tasks.
At the same time, global and national food companies need to guarantee a stable food supply in the face of a growing world population, volatile markets, and current threats to agricultural yields.
in the dots above and, at its simplest, there are obvious actions for companies to be taking: get inputs, training, outreach, credit and technology to these women, and watch production grow. Addressing gender inequality in business and its supply chains is not only the right thing to do; it's also the smart - and increasingly the legal - thing to do. Yet, only the most enlightened businesses appear to have taken this on board.
Number 7 in Oxfam's Briefing for Business series, Gender Inequality: it's your Business will be published in 2012. It sets out both why and how companies can take action, with examples of what the leading organisations are doing on this issue.
We are highlighting the relevance of women in agriculture today, but this paper speaks to any business. To receive a copy on publication, and help move businesses that you engage with from laggard to leader, mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up.
Find out when the the new Briefing for Business is published by subscribing to our private sector RSS feed.