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

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:

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Hi Shruthi there's a very specific example posted earlier that may be of interest of industry and NGO collaboration to improve working conditions and shift mindsets for women beer promoters in Cambodia - led by CARE.
Shruthi Jayaram said:

Agree this is highly context-specific but companies can engage in different ways to combat systemic gender imbalances for example, through advertising as we discussed earlier, sharing best practices publicly and partnering with the development community to increase adoption of best practices, using CSR as a lever to fund women's empowerment, etc.  Would love to hear if anyone has examples of any of these, especially on the partnering on best practices bit

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for reaching out. I'm actually based in Senegal so do feel free to get in touch. I think deliberate community engagement with heads of communities and religious leaders to get their buy in is a must through a number of pre-meetings. The buy-in of the chef de village and Imam in Senegal have been instrumental to moving the needle on female genital cutting. As for backlash from male partners - men's and community education can go along way. Care International has done some great work here. In general - everyone should feel included even though the programme will be run by women. Partnering with a local NGO is normally a great way of doing this. Tostan, in Senegal, might be a good partner as they have a huge grassroots network.

Kelly Lavelle said:

Thank you Gerry and Tania and Kelly Lavelle here.  I am in the process of launching ElleSolaire, a women-centred Senegal based social entreprise for last mile distribution of solar technologies - the potential 'backlash' in rural communities is a primary concern I have in designing our programme and would ask if you have specific examples on effective ways to mitigate against it? 

Tania Beard said:

Gerry that's such a key point. What we've seen is if the focus is on economic empowerment alone, without consideration of the power dynamics at the community and household level, you can end up with a backlash. The design of the economic empowerment programme needs to be broad and deliberate about this.

Gerry Boyle said:

Another point which we are very aware of  is that if investments are made in women and their output increases in productivity and therefore value, there is a risk that men step in and increasingly take over ownership of the output.  So we do need to be working on men’s and community attitudes to ensure women retain some control over the value they create.

Dear Hester, 

I think this publication on Gender and Global Value Chains: Challenges of Economic and Social U... is a great contribution of Stephanie around the theme. 

You could also find very interesting this paper on Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate So..., which has been published on Regional Studies, 2014.

Thank you again for this great webinar!

Hester le Roux said:

Thanks Lara (and please thank Prof Barrientos for her contribution) - I was wondering whether you could provide a link to some of Prof Barrientos' recent research on gender and value chains?  I'm sure many participants in this discussion would be interested in learning more about her research findings.

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