How to Make Agriculture Better for Women
Initial findings from a program in Mexico
Women are active participants in Mexico’s vast agriculture sector, yet their contributions often go unrecognized or are economically undervalued. With three quarters of Mexico’s land dedicated to or having ties to farming systems, agriculture-based small and growing businesses (SGBs) can have enormous influence in determining how economic gains from agriculture get distributed.
Devising ways that can remove obstacles to women’s personal and professional development, or creating gender-inclusive policies and procedures, isn’t always straightforward for business leaders. Value for Women, in partnership with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), is leading an action-oriented research initiative to design, test, and measure strategies for inclusion across agricultural enterprises’ business models. The project and partnership is made possible through a grant to ANDE from Walmart Foundation.
We started with a diagnostic of 14 SGBs working in the agriculture sector in Mexico as a key entry point for influencing gender inclusion. From there, we selected a group of eight SGBs to implement gender inclusion activities. We have designed a Rapid Gender Gap Self-Assessment Tool to research the roles of women in agricultural SGBs in Mexico, and to identify approaches that can be tested to improve their positions while increasing business impact.
We are still conducting research, but analysis so far has revealed significant opportunities for businesses to enhance their impacts on women within their various roles and to decrease the productivity gap. Structural barriers often negatively impact women and overall business performance, but including women in knowledge management, leadership, and ownership of company processes can help reduce these barriers.
Another important step is to understand the full range of positions that women hold within the agribusiness industry. Our research has also shown us that women engage in many ways within different facets of agribusiness. Our emerging lessons learned demonstrate further need to understand women’s roles as:
● Employees in processing or value addition, administration, management, sales, and extension/technical service provision
● Leaders in cooperatives, supplier groups, and internal company structures
● Producers, farmers and suppliers
● Consumers and customers
This INFOGRAPHIC: GENDER INCLUSION WITHIN AGRICULTURE-BASED SGBs IN MEXICO demonstrates a snapshot of some findings from an analysis of the roles of women in business functions from a sample of the 14 companies. It identifies three important opportunities for SGBs to catalyze change:
1. Facilitate leadership and upward mobility for female employees and suppliers through increasing their access to new knowledge, skills, and experience.
2. Implement flexible working practices to accommodate women’s time constraints and caregiving roles.
3. Engage with producer groups to positively impact the visibility of women’s roles, enhance women’s gains from agricultural labor, and improve business performance by guaranteeing the quantity and quality of supply.
We also recognize that each business has its own unique characteristics, so we are working directly with eight businesses to introduce new practices in their organizational and operational structures. This will allow each business to draw on inclusion strategies that fit their specific model.
We are also testing strategies for impact on business performance and operational efficiencies, covering critical areas such as:
● Staffing and leadership, focusing on potential challenges to women’s access to certain roles.
● Policies and practices and the impact these have on ensuring an inclusive organizational structure that allows mobility, capacity development, innovation, and a more sustainable business.
● Relationship with suppliers looking at criteria used to make decisions for building a sustainable portfolio of producers.
● Support services to suppliers, understanding that investments can build on sustainability and efficiency.
● Relationship with consumers by increasing gender intelligence in market research, marketing plans, communication strategies and product innovation.
This analysis is helping us identify a set of actions to try out and evaluate in several business operations areas. These include reducing staff rotation, increasing staff commitment to the company, increasing staff capacities in order to guarantee the quantity and quality of supply needed for production, as well as in understanding how gender needs and interests play a role in defining marketing and communication strategies to increase sales.
Our team and partners are excited to see the results of this new way of looking at old challenges. We expect to draw out both social and business impacts that can be shared with our networks, as well as contribute to a growing body of knowledge on the topic of gender and social inclusion in agriculture value chains. Please write to us if you are interested in hearing more at firstname.lastname@example.org
Value for Women is a global advisory services firm with a mission to promote women’s participation and leadership in business, finance and investment around the globe, with a focus on emerging markets.