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Sedex report highlights inequalities and risks for women in agriculture, alongside solutions to progress gender equality in supply chains

London, 8 March 2022: This International Women’s Day, Sedex releases a report which reveals inequalities, challenges and risks for women working in agriculture. The findings, released today in the report “Progressing gender equality in agriculture”, provide crucial insight and actions for organisations sourcing from agricultural industries, supporting to drive gender equality in supply chains.

An estimated 28% of people working globally are in the agricultural sector [1], making it a major employer that many businesses are connected to through their supply chain. Agriculture is also one of the world’s most hazardous industries for workers [2].

Women comprise about 43% of agricultural workers [3]. While this work provides crucial economic opportunities, female workers in agriculture are often more exposed to physical, financial and other risks than their male counterparts. Understanding these risks and what actions businesses should take to address them are key to progressing gender equality in supply chains, with gender-disaggregated data a key enabler.

“Sedex’s insights into women’s working situations in agriculture help organisations to identify risks, focus their efforts, address negative impacts, and drive positive change for female workers. These activities are more crucial than ever, as businesses face growing pressure from investors, consumers and governments to operate more responsibly and sustainably.” Jessica McGoverne, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs at Sedex

High-risk issues within agriculture vary between countries, but some are consistently high, including insufficient wages and irregular employment – with women often more vulnerable. Gender stereotypes and the roles women have at work also make them vulnerable to many risks that are already high for agricultural workers. Multiple factors, including age, ethnicity, and religion, can intersect to increase this vulnerability.

Women are more likely than men to be in lower-paid roles with less decision-making power. Women tend to be excluded from leadership roles. At agricultural sites in Sedex data, women make up only 21% of manager positions and 31% of supervisor positions, and accounted for only 38% of promotions from 2020-2021. This lack of representation can detract from progressing gender equality.

Women are underrepresented in structures that act as enablers for change.

Alongside underrepresentation in management roles, Sedex data shows women comprise only 38% of worker committee members in agriculture work sites.

“Gathering gender-disaggregated data and assessing risk is crucial for protecting workers and improving gender equality. Sedex members are able to access and model data that helps to assess where risks of irresponsible behaviour in supply chains exists. This allows organisations to focus resources in the areas that need the most improvement – whether in terms of gender equality and representation or other factors like health and safety risk assessment. Sedex provides a platform, tools and consulting services to aid companies to improve their sourcing practices”, says McGoverne.

[1] – no.36