The Power of Parity

By Melissa Pugash and Margaret Swallow 


Photo: IWCA

As members of the coffee community, why is it essential for us to think about the importance of gender diversity across the global supply chain?

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the positive impact women make toward prosperity and security around the world. The organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that if we close the global gap in workforce participation between men and women, the GDP worldwide would grow by nearly 12% by 2030.

So how do those statistics relate specifically to the coffee sector? Robério Oliveira Silva, Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization, offered his unique perspective at the International Women’s Coffee Alliance’s (IWCA) October 2015 conference in Bogotá, Colombia:


Robério Oliveira Silva. Photo: FNC

“The FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] estimates that – depending on the country – women comprise between 20 and 50 percent of the agricultural labor force and make up 3 to 20 percent of the landowners. However, women have less access than men to productive resources. There is a significant gender gap for access to land, credit, pesticides and fertilizers as well as extension services. Women are also often more constrained by time due to the double burden of domestic and farm work.

“There is a need to continue working together in order to overcome the constraints which currently hold back female producers. For example, women need to be included in technical training. Women’s access to finance need to be improved. Women’s role in the marketing cash crops need to be strengthened – this also means overcoming barriers resulting from established cultural norms. These steps are crucial in order to increase productivity in the coffee sector.

“However, efforts to promote gender equality should not be limited to the producer. It is extremely important to strengthen the role of women along the entire coffee value chain. For example, women are still underrepresented in producer organizations and too few women hold leadership roles in the sector.

“Ultimately, it is important to realize that gender equality is both a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation of an economically prosperous coffee community. This notion is well reflected in the new sustainable development agenda which was adopted by the United Nations on 25 September in New York: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls has become the fifth Sustainable Development Goal.

“In order to foster growth in the coffee sector that is inclusive and viable in the long-term, we need to develop solutions which help to increase not only the environmental but also social sustainability of coffee production. We need to create an enabling environment for women to thrive and become leaders in all areas of the coffee sector.”

Leadership in a Changing World” will be the main topic of discussion at the NCA 2016 Annual Convention. Henriette Kolb, the Head of the Gender Secretariat at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, will offer her insight on the power of parity at the NCA/International Women’s Coffee Alliance Annual Luncheon on Friday, March 18th at San Diego’s famed Hotel del Coronado.

All men and women, including those who have not registered for the NCA Convention, are invited to participate in this important dialogue. Please visit the NCA website for Convention information and registration. For NCA/IWCA Luncheon registration only, please contact Thrisha Andrews at, (212) 766-4007

Henriette works with IFC’s private sector clients to include both women and men as entrepreneurs, employees, consumers, community stakeholders and leaders. Before joining the IFC in September 2013, she was the CEO of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, where she remains involved as a senior advisor. She graduated with an MSc in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and received her MA from Freiburg University, Germany. She is a Bucerius and Hertie summer school alumna and a frequent contributor to blogs hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Huffington Post, and Business Fights Poverty.

Get more information about the IFC and the IWCA.


Two-time SCAA Award winner, Melissa Pugash is a marketing communications and strategic planning consultant with 28 years experience in the global coffee sector. She is a co-founder of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance and serves on the UCLA Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Advisory Board. Melissa holds a BA from Tufts University and prefers filter drip coffee, served black.

Margaret Swallow is a marketing, high-performing teamwork, and personal leadership consultant. She has +30 years experience working in both the private and public sectors. She is a co-founder of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. Margaret has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Sociology from the University of Maryland. She starts every day including Sundays with at least three cups of strong coffee.


One thought on “The Power of Parity

  1. Pingback: Related Reading: Gender Diversity in Coffee | The First Pull

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s