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Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Nathalie Hoffmann's picture

Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

10 Knowledge Products from Sub-Saharan Africa You Don’t Want to Miss

Daniella Van Leggelo-Padilla's picture
Examine, evaluate, analyze, and explore… The World Bank Group’s comprehensive research, reports, and knowledge products do just that, providing policy makers and stakeholders from all sectors across Africa access to reliable evidenced-based data to assist in their decision-making processes.

Building gender equality into intelligent transport systems in China

Yi Yang's picture

Transport infrastructure planning and design take into consideration men and women’s differences in travel needs, patterns, and behaviors to promote gender equality. But do these differences also affect how they use intelligent transport systems (ITS)? 

When I searched online for “IC card” (integrated circuit card used to pay transit fares), I found the pictures below (see Figure 1). They illustrate one of the differences between men and women: men tend to travel carrying very little while women tend to carry one or several bags. When women get on a bus, they need to locate the card in their bag which may take some time and hold up the queue behind them. To save time, a simple modification to the IC card reader could facilitate the process by not requiring them to take it out of their purse for swiping.

Figure 1: Differences of IC card usage between men and women

Cheers, NZ: How New Zealand and the World Bank are changing lives in the Pacific

Kara Mouyis's picture




New Zealand has a long history of supporting its close neighbors in the Pacific, both in times of disaster and emergencies, and to help improve the lives of many thousands across the region.

On Waitangi Day, the national day of New Zealand, we take a look at three key World Bank projects in the Pacific, and how New Zealand’s support has been integral to making them happen.

11 charts from the 2017 World Development Report on Governance & the Law

Tariq Khokhar's picture

What makes government policies work in real life for the benefit of citizens? The answer put forward by World Development Report (WDR) 2017 is better governance – the ways in which governments and citizens work together to design and implement policies.

The report is a detailed exploration of a complex topic. I won’t be able to do it justice in a short blog – I’d encourage you to download the report and summary here.

What I will do though, is pull out a few of the charts and ideas I found most striking while reading through it – have a look below and let us know what you think.

Constitutions have proliferated since the late 18th century

Constitutions – fundamental principles or laws governing countries – have proliferated since the late 18th century. The growing numbers, especially since the 1940s, correspond to the postcolonial increase in the number of independent states, and more recently the breakup of the Soviet Union.

… but they are often replaced or amended

The WDR finds that the effectiveness of constitutions in constraining power through rules is mixed – the average lifespan of a constitution is 19 years, and in Latin America and eastern Europe it is a mere eight years.

Chart: Gender Quota Laws Have Spread Worldwide Since 1990

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Over the last 25 years, different forms of gender quotas for representation in national legislatures have spread globally. Out of 74 countries studied where gender quota laws were passed, the 2017 World Development Report finds that 26 had achieved the quotes, and as of 2016, 48 countries had yet to do so.

Read more in 11 charts from the 2017 World Development Report on Governance & The Law

Making the World Bank Group LGBTI friendly, one step at a time

Caroline Vagneron's picture

The business case for greater diversity and inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) staff is now well documented, and the corporate world is making solid progress towards LGBTI equality at the workplace. The message is also slowly but surely sinking into international organizations such as the World Bank Group, for which diversity is also synonymous with greater productivity, collaboration, innovation and creativity. In particular, LGBTI-supportive policies are linked to less discrimination against LGBTI employees and more open corporate cultures. Less discrimination and more openness (or less concealment), in turn, are also linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, improved health outcomes (concealment of sexual orientation is associated with increased psychological distress) and increased productivity among LGBTI employees.

Are holistic intimate partner and sexual and gender based violence prevention randomized control trials structurally low-powered?

Guest post by Arthur Alik-Lagrange and Lea Rouanet

Impact evaluations of interventions aiming at reducing intra-partner and sexual and gender-based violence (IPV-SGBV) have mostly failed at detecting statistically significant impacts.

Women Masons in Tamil Nadu: Lessons from a unique experiment

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Not long ago, fifty three year old Parvati Amma was told that she was too old to train as a mason. But that didn’t deter this feisty lady. She took the rejection as a challenge and went on to ace the class.

Parvati Amma comes from Pulkattai village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP) has conducted a unique experiment.  In an effort to raise the very low levels of women’s participation in India’s labor force, it is helping rural women break into jobs that are traditionally held by men, where they could increase their earnings significantly.

In this part of Madurai district, most of the men folk are successful masons. The women worked as helpers, merely passing tools to the men as they laid brick over brick to build houses and office blocks. Being unskilled, the women earned half the men’s wages.

Even though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanized states in India with high literacy rates, new buildings are proceeding apace amidst the state’s booming construction industry, attracting over a million migrant workers - more than a tenth of whom work as unskilled labor. There is, however, a paucity of trained masons.

The challenge for the women was to take on age-old social and cultural barriers and enter into this exclusive male preserve. Masonry has never been seen as a woman’s job in India, much less in this conservative rural area. For a start, the women wear sarees that constrain them from climbing onto scaffolding to build the higher storeys. Masons are also required to travel long distances for work, and staying away from their families is not something the women could easily do. Apart from mobility constraints and worksites that are not women-friendly; domestic responsibilities, burden of child and elderly care, and a conservative societal outlook, are all challenges.

Nonetheless, the women of Madurai’s Pulkattai village were not to be daunted. They saw this as an opportunity to prove their worth and double their wages in the bargain.
 TNEPRP)
Women Masons in training (Photo Credit: TNEPRP

Supported by a visionary panchayat president and an expert mason from the village who had confidence in the women’s capability - Parvati Amma and 25 other women joined the masonry training offered by the project. 

In India, small interventions bring big changes for gender equality

R. Kyle Peters's picture
Young girls iin a  school in India
Young girls in a school in India. Credit: World Bank


I was in India a few weeks ago and had the chance to visit some rural schools in Uttar Pradesh. When I was there, I met a group of adolescent girls who could potentially help close the country’s gender gap.
 
These girls board at school, where they get nutritious meals and are able to focus on their studies. The program purposefully targets 11 to 13-year-old girls from poor households who cannot afford to send their daughters to school. Some girls are also at risk of being married off early.
 
By keeping the girls in school at this critical juncture, they have a chance at a better life.
 
Parents told me that many of the girls at this boarding school were underweight and malnourished when they arrived. As they studied and ate and slept well, they slowly gained weight and got taller. As their knowledge grew, so did they.
 
But how many of these girls will go on to fulfil their true potential and add to their family’s income by joining the job market?


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