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Women in the Value Chain

Overview

Global value chains (GVCs) refer to the full range of activities to bring a product from its conception to end use, including design, production, distribution and consumer support. In an increasingly globalized economy, value chains offer employment opportunities for both men and women around the world. The institutional context within which these value chains operate often defines the types of jobs available for women, the terms of their employment and their ability to fully benefit from their labor.

In some sectors – for instance: agriculture, textiles and light manufacturing, to name a few – the expansion of global production chains has been associated with increased female employment. At the same time, the feminization of the labor force in these global value chains has been linked to increased job insecurity, flexibilization and precarious work. Women have often been siloed in lower skill jobs with limited opportunity for economic upgrading, and they work on temporary or part time contracts, which offer limited security and social protection.

Despite these limitations and past trends, employment in global value chains continues to offer a significant potential for women’s economic advancement and empowerment. Moreover, there is an increased recognition by commercial buyers and suppliers that inclusion and gender equity are key contributors to value chain sustainability.

Careful and systematic analysis is needed to better understand the gendered aspects of value chains and the social and institutional context within which they operate. This insight can help identify the key entry points and strategies to more productively and equitably engage women in value chain employment, for more productive and sustainable value chains and, ultimately, for more inclusive economic development.

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ICRW's Role

ICRW’s research applies a gendered value chain analysis framework to understand the chain-based and contextual factors that define men’s and women’s roles in various global value chains. This analysis introduces a gender lens to understanding the ways in which various chains operate at different levels – bringing into focus the gender gap in economic opportunity as employees or entrepreneurs and in opportunities for upgrading within the chain.

This work also sheds light upon the extent of gender inequality in the distribution of  earnings and profits across the value chain. In addition, ICRW’s gendered value chain analysis explores intra-household division of labor, resource allocations, bargaining and how they affect and are affected by women’s entry into value chain employment.

ICRW’s research informs our strategic guidance and partnership with various value chain actors and stakeholders, in order to help them identify policy and programmatic solutions that would contribute to more gender equitable and sustainable value chains.

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