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The Future (of Coffee) is Female

by Norman Eisler March 12, 2018

Why International Women’s Day matters to the coffee industry

as originally posted in, March 8, 2018

Women are essential to the coffee supply chain – but too often their contributions go unrecognized and unrewarded. Disenfranchisement and gender inequity are perpetuated through a myriad of economic, systemic, and cultural issues (from the insidious to the overt).However, through hard work and persistence, we’re beginning to see a powerful (and empowering) change across the industry.  These inspiring initiatives are fueled by new (and overdue) research on women in coffee, which gives us critical data to measure real impact.


But there is still a long way to go. 

And that’s why these conversations – like ,  #genderincoffee, and #ShesTheRoaster – are important to keep us accountable and engaged. But it has to be more than a hashtag. As an industry, we need to invite new voices to the conversation. We need to encourage women in coffee to share their stories, their experience, and their ideas.

Then, we need to listen. Really listen. And act accordingly.

Not only is it our moral obligation, but gender equity at origin is good for the entire industry.

We also need to remember that the pursuit of parity should not be limited to producers. We need to support women pursuing leadership roles and technical careers in coffee. We need to foster supportive professional communities and positive work environments, from the c-suite to the café. To be effective, inclusivity must be integrated across the sector.

So what’s next?

The journey ahead can feel daunting. But each step, large or small, brings us forward.  Education is the foundation of progress – so whether it’s #InternationalWomensDay or just another Tuesday, we encourage you to check out these organizations and resources to learn more and show your support:

International Women In Coffee Alliance

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) focuses on organizing, connecting and empowering women in coffee.

Last year, they established the IWCA Research Alliance to fill an important void and better understand issues of gender in coffee. Their first project was to address the lack of data on the number of female producers in each producing country (which is a pretty big deal).

The IWCA will be hosting a networking reception to benefit their 22 chapters around the world at the NCA 2018 Annual Convention in New Orleans on March 17 – we hope to see you there! But if you can’t make it this year, consider these other ways you can support the IWCA #pressforprogress.

Grounds for Health

Grounds for Health addresses one of the most significant disparities in women’s health globally. Cervical cancer is a nearly 100% preventable disease, and yet in the next 15 years it is expected to kill six million women – 90% of whom will live in developing countries.

And considering that women do an estimated 70% of the fieldwork on coffee farms globally, providing basic screenings and preventative care can have a huge impact across families, farms, and communities.

The NCA recently named Grounds for Health as the recipient of the first-ever NCA Origin Charity of the Year Award, for outstanding work supporting coffee communities at origin.

“Our work in the coffee regions of Latin American and East Africa has been supported in great measure by the coffee industry,” said Ellen Starr, Executive Director, Grounds for Health, in the NCA news release. “Our relationship demonstrates just how much social change can be achieved when an industry fundamentally cares about its people at every step of the supply chain.”

The Partnership for Gender Equity

The Coff­ee Quality Institute (CQI) founded the Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) in the fall of 2014. This initiative focuses on how gender inequality at origin impacts coff­ee outcomes and the well-being of producers – and how to respond.

The PGE’s 2015 report, The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in the Coffee Value Chain, is an import gender equity resource for the coffee sector. This kind of hard data is important for understanding understand how inclusion moves the dial and strengthens the industry.

Norman Eisler
Norman Eisler


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