Global value chains (GVCs) are closely associated with the global sourcing of labour-intensive consumer goods from suppliers in developing countries. Women have been drawn into GVCs at every level: as farmers, workers, processors, entrepreneurs, buyers, service providers, managers and consumers. The expansion of GVCs has changed the gender pattern of work across production, distribution and retail in most consumer-oriented sectors. Women constitute the majority of customers at the retail end and play a key role in services that support GVCs. At the production end, GVCs have generated jobs for hundreds of millions of workers, a significant proportion female. However, women entrepreneurs face challenges accessing GVCs. Many are in developing countries, where women’s labour market access has previously been limited.
Participation in GVCs has had mixed gender outcomes. On the positive side, companies benefit from gendered skills of women workers, such as embroidery, weaving, fruit picking and other skills that have been socially acquired through traditional gender roles, to attain productivity, efficiency and quality standards required in contemporary value chains. Policy-makers recognize that increasing women’s incomes through paid work and entrepreneurship is important, since they are more likely than men to spend on supporting
their children, households and communities. Many argue women’s employment in global production also provides opportunities for greater independence and economic empowerment. However, women workers face significant challenges and are often disadvantaged relative to men. Women are more likely to be concentrated in insecure or informal work, receive poorer pay and conditions, combine paid work with a greater share of caring responsibilities and be subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment within the workplace. Women entrepreneurs face greater challenges in owning property, accessing finance and meeting standards in value chains.
Global Value Chain Policy Series: Gender