Some of the results of the analysis are what you might expect: ingrained gender norms often prevent women from accessing and realising the benefits of their barley production. What was perhaps more surprising is how the nuances of everyday business practices such as contracting can have a significant impact on gender equity and therefore the performance of the value chain. Through completing the research, we realised that these findings aren’t just relevant to Diageo, they apply to any business with a global value chain and there are three key things your business can do to unlock the potential of women and your value chain:
1. Understand where women are within your value chain
Since 2014, Diageo has been contracting farmers using unions and primary co-operatives as intermediaries; co-operative membership is a pre-requisite for being a farmer contracted to supply to Diageo. The report found that women are under-represented within co-operatives and on average, women account for only 13% of co-operative membership.
Women are therefore invisible within the value chain which means that they are more likely to be excluded from training and decision-making regarding farming and its benefits.
The report recommends collecting sex-disaggregated data at every level so that co-operatives, unions, partners and Diageo can identify the roles that women play and therefore what the priorities are for increasing their participation. Understanding the roles which women carry out, and why they are excluded from other roles, will help you to unlock the potential within your value chain.
2. Set targets to proactively support women in your value chain
Once you have mapped where women are within your supply chain, you can identify targets to support their empowerment and unlock business potential. The report recommends establishing targets for the number of women who are contracted as farmers and to ensure that minimum numbers of female-headed-households participate as members.
In addition to setting targets, it recommends working with unions and co-operatives, training and input providers to create gender inclusive strategies, outreach and action plans; targeting training and incentives to female extension trainers; and ensuring that training and meetings are gender-sensitive i.e. they take into account women’s workloads and have flexible locations.
3. Recognise your strengths and the role of partnership
The above recommendations present some quick(er) wins. However, women will not be incentivised to contribute to your value chain over the long-term unless they have equity in household relations and decision-making.
The report found that on average, women in the Diageo barley supply chain spend 10-13 hours a day carrying out agricultural activities, looking after children, the elderly, sick relatives, cooking, fetching water and fetching firewood, often awakening around 5 or 6am to complete their tasks. In contrast, men awake at 8am and have far more leisure time within their days.
This is where the power of partnerships comes in. Entrenched cultural norms and unequal relationship dynamics need to be addressed in order for any interventions within the value chain to be made sustainable. The private sector cannot do this alone. Businesses should partner with NGOs which have the expertise and knowledge to address fundamental barriers such as gender-based violence and to engage men and the entire community to create a supportive environment for women’s empowerment. By partnering with governments meanwhile, businesses can increase access to essential service provision, gender-sensitive policies and training.
These three steps may not provide all of the solutions, but they can begin to help your business unlock the power of women within your value chain and release your business potential.