There are approximately 190 million women working in supply chains around the world today. The jobs they hold assembling products on factory floors, packing cartons in warehouses, and harvesting crops in farm fields should translate to economic independence and a brighter future for their families. Regrettably, that is too often not the case.
According to workers’ rights alliance the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the reality for countless women is excessive hours, often spent in dangerous working conditions, and wages that are insufficient to make ends meet. Further, “the power imbalance” between male supervisors and a predominantly female workforce, compounded by what society accepts as appropriate work for women, means they end up in the lowest paid, least secure roles.
The recently published case study “The Benefits of Collective Bargaining for Women” explores a landmark agreement for Moroccan rural workers, particularly women. The report states: “The lowest-paid workers labor in informal economy jobs such as agriculture, where the reach of national labor laws and regulations is poor at best, resulting in frequent and ongoing violations of worker rights. Workers often are forced to work long hours, are paid less than the minimum wage, and rarely receive retirement or other benefits they are guaranteed under national law. This is especially true for women who are typically the most precarious and lowest-paid agricultural workers in many value chains and who are especially subject to sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work.”
But as a direct result of women being at the bargaining table, the agreement between the Moroccan Confédération Démocratique du Travail and Domaines Brahim Zniber Diana Holding Group succeeded in giving women equal pay for equal work; protecting them from being fired when they marry; and providing them with training for higher-paid positions, something previously only offered to men. Other key gains include maternity and paternity leave, time off to care for sick children, and more transparency into overtime and bonuses.
Importantly, the Morocco Ministry for Labor has praised the agreement, citing its exemplary negotiation process and farsighted vision of cooperation.
Gender equality is good for business
Having women behind the closed doors of a negotiation was clearly an effective strategy. In the same way, having women represented in all levels of supply chain is crucial. Although gender equality is widely recognized as critical to heightened productivity, less turnover and healthier work environments, it continues to be a complex issue for today’s supply chains. This is why the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) is dedicated to making a positive impact on vulnerable workers everywhere.
ASCM is the recipient of a three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this grant, we will work to directly support the Foundation in its efforts to build self-reliant supply chain talent, increase educational and economic opportunities for women, and encourage healthier families and communities. I invite you to learn more and get involved. As more and more cases like the Moroccan victory proves, these goals are achievable.