How Nespresso is Helping Gender Equality & Empowering Women in Coffee

24.05.18

There’s a lot to be sad about in the news today. And sometimes I feel like it is my duty to give you things to read that will restore your faith in humanity. Like this.

Historically speaking, gender equality has always been a big problem in developing countries where women living and working in places like Ethiopia are struggling to be afforded the same opportunities as men. Therefore, in my opinion, it is up to global companies like Nespresso, who work directly with local communities in these regions to offer whatever resources they can to the fight for parity.

And Nespresso are fighting.

Coffee farming is huge in Ethiopia (Africa is said to be the birthplace of coffee) and women have always played an important role, both as farmers and “agronomists” (the experts in soil management, environmental conservation and crop production), but they’re constantly being held back because of their gender: men own most of the land and have better access to training, support and financial credit. Women, on the other hand, hardly ever earn a fair wage for their work and are under huge pressure with their time because they have the added responsibility of child care and domestic duties.

So the company partnered with a non-profit organisation called TechnoServe – short for “technology in the service of mankind” – on the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program. TechnoServe basically harnesses the power of the private sector in western countries like the US and the UK to help people in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty. It’s an incredibly uplifting business story, if you want to read more about them click here. TechnoServe noticed that despite 75 percent of work in the coffee chain being carried out by women, only 43 percent of the income is being earned by those same women.

So the non-profit organisation and Nespresso now work together in the coffee sector to make sure women have equal access to training and support, that Nespresso continues to hire women, and that actions and protocols are always gender-sensitive. For example, Nespresso found that female farmers were more likely to attend a training session if it fit around their childcare and domestic duties, so the company schedules sessions that accommodate this. They also found that women prefer to have other women teach them new skills, so Nespresso hired more female trainers. There was also an issue with self-confidence; Ethiopian women generally didn’t feel they were qualified enough to apply for a job in coffee production, so Nespresso changed their method and now advertise “training courses” instead of “job opportunities” and at the end of the training days the women are offered the job on the spot.

These are small changes with life-changing consequences (I’m not crying you’re crying).

In terms of agronomists, there has always been a massive gender imbalance in this role. The World Bank estimates that only 15% of agronomists worldwide are women. Whereas Nespresso have 31% women in this role – almost double the global average.

In order to move the needle forward, countries around the world need to celebrate their women and the impact their work is having, not only on the quality of coffee but the profound impact they have on the economic and social development of the millions of people in these local communities.

I don’t know about you but my heart feels a little fuller.

P.s. Here is a video I love about Hundatu Ayana, one of Nespresso’s female agronomists living and working in Ethiopia. 


This article was published in partnership with Nespresso 
All images were provided by Nespresso New Zealand