Sustainable Development Goals, Small Business, How Can You Contribute? Goal 5, Gender Equality

A few months ago, I came across a Twitter post from Marks and Spencer’s (M&S), advertising their commitment to ensuring that women in their supply chain are paid digitally. This post sparked a debate as people could not believe that M&S weren’t already doing so.  Supply chain management, for a company such as M&S, can be very diverse and difficult to trace. The number of layers it will have and how work is contracted and then sub-contracted out makes traceability of environmental, social and ethical issues very complex. I personally, was pleased to come across this post. It meant that M&S have recognised that there is an issue somewhere along their supply chain and they are now working to address it. So what does this mean exactly and why does it matter?

If you live and work in Europe or North America, you are likely to receive your wages through your bank account. Move out of these continents and the situation is the opposite. Despite rapid development, many nations in Asia, Africa and South America, for example, continue to pay manually.  Businesses, such as, Unilever, SC Johnson, Walmart, Mars, H&M ad M&S etc., will have deep connections to these countries via their supply chains. The deeper you dig into a supply chain, the more you will find that people are paid in cash and women are more likely to be recipients of cash in hand. For women, this system can be detrimental to their livelihood, especially for those at the bottom of the supply chain.

The number of women working across supply chains is quickly increasing, but their lives are marginally improving. Although women are allowed to work to support their families, their wages are often handed over to the head of the family, most likely a husband, father or in-laws.  Whilst this is a culturally acceptable practice in most communities and often mutually agreed, there are far too many instances where the woman’s wages are forcefully taken away and used to support illicit habits, such as, alcohol and gambling.  It also means that when a woman requires money for her own personal use, she has to ask for it. She is often questioned for every small request, thus resulting in her refraining to ask for money.  Such issues are contributing to the continued increase of women living in poverty.

So what can you do to assist with eradicating this form of gender inequality?

Locally?
1. If you are not already doing so, consider transferring your wages to digital systems such as BACs.
2. Offer workshops on money saving tips for women within your workplace and encourage the same with suppliers.
3. Carry out pension forums to explain pension schemes.
4. Ensure women are not paid less than men doing the same role, close the gender pay gap.
5. When taking on new suppliers, ask for their payment/wages policy and ask to see an example.

Globally?
1. Fortunately the gap in the digital payment market has been identified by, local entrepreneurs and large corporations alike, are now leading the way in mobile payment systems.  In Kenya, for example, the mobile payment app known as, M-Pesa, owned by Vodaphone, has become one of the most popular methods for payments.  According to a report by the BBC, 73 percent of Kenyans have a mobile payment account.  With the growing demand for quick payment methods, supply chains can explore wage payment systems via such apps. Not only does this encourage traceability of payment equality and accessibility for women, it will assist women in keeping money aside for their own personal use, thereby enabling a better livelihood.
2. Collaborate with your global suppliers to facilitate workshops to make women financially savvy.
3. Upskill women by encouraging them to take up educational workshops whether it is vocational or academic.

Whilst we talk a lot about empowering women, it is equally important for us to also recognise that men have a critical role to play in women’s empowerment:

1. Raise sons to treat their sisters and female friends as equals so when they enter the work environment, respect and equality is already a part of their values and beliefs.
2. Empower and support women in recognising their abilities and strengths. Ensure that this same vision is passed on to future generations.
3. Encourage male employees working within the supply chain to treat women as equals, respect them and value their work and opinions in the same manner.

If every organisation, regardless of size or location contributed by taking small steps to eradicate gender inequality, we will collectively achieve the UNs 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 5, Target:
“5.A Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.”

Did you know?
• Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work.
• 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
• Women represent just 13 percent of agricultural landholders.
• Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
• Two thirds of developing countries have achieved gender parity in primary education.
• Only 24 percent of national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, a small increase from 11.3 percent in 1995.

Source: UNDP

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