On Thursday 11 July 2019, Fair & Sustainable consultant Jochem Schneemann delivered a guest lecture about the business case of gender interventions at the Maastricht School of Management (MSM). Participants were 30 professionals from 16 countries – who followed the 2-weeks MBA summer course in Global Value Chains and Sustainability. Jochem presented the results of a study last year in Ethiopia where his team assessed the costs and benefits of gender interventions in flower farms.
The study was commissioned by IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative, with project partners: the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters Association (EHPEA), the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) and Business for Social Responsibility -BSR.
The gender interventions undertaken by the flower farms consisted of:
(1) Establishing gender committees
(2) Review of the Human Resources policy, including code of conduct on gender based violence, a grievance system and a chapter on gender equality
(3) Training of managers, staff and gender committee members on equal rights, gender sensitive management, role & responsibilities of the gender committee, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and family planning.
One of the outstanding results of gender work in the Ethiopian flower sector was that workers paid more respect to each other, women got more confidence and felt more safe at the work floor. The figure below features the good gender and labour practices (on the left) that were identified at the selected flower farms, and business benefits (on the right).
After the presentation the participants discussed about questions, such as:
- Do you see a gender gap in your sector/company? Can you explain? Why is there (not) a gap?
- What is the dominant thinking about gender (gap) in your organization or sector ?
- What is being done to address gender in your sector? Is there a gender policy/are there gender interventions? What is your opinion about it?
It came out that in most organizations, men have the majority of positions at management level, that women often get paid less for the same position. Which is a global phenomenon. There was debate as to whether a quota or fixed percentage of men and women at management positions should be aimed for.
Jochem’s response: “Discussion showed that there are pro’s and con’s for a quota, but this often remains a long debate. More fundamental is that companies ensure a level playing field for all staff with regard to opportunities. This requires companies to identify the capacities and aspirations of their (female and male) employees, and making investments in women, so they can realise their ambition and reach the same level and positions as men.”
Consensus existed that business arguments would make the best chance to convince executives to commit and pay attention to gender equality. Overall, it was a lively debate and open exchange across a large diversity of backgrounds and nationalities. MSM has invited Jochem for another guest lecture on 11th of December 2019.
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