Girls getting essential services. Image: Oxfam
Girls getting essential services. Image: Oxfam

Day 6: Stop Talking About Equality

26 November, 2012 | Food and Gender: Online Discussion

Business leaders change behavior when something is in it for them and their companies. If we want them to change the way they do business, we need to stop talking about justice and gender equality, and instead show how a fairer food system means sustainable profits.

By Tinna Nielsen, senior diversity and inclusion consultant

Business leaders change behavior when something is in it for them and their businesses. If we want them to change the way they do business, we need to stop talking about justice and gender equality, and instead show how a fairer food system means sustainable profits.

In my work as a business anthropologist in a private sector dairy and food company, I have seen how a change in discourse can lead to behavioral change among business leaders, which in turn leads to greater gender equality. Interestingly, shifting the focus away from ‘justice’, ‘women’ and ‘social responsibility’ and towards ‘profit’ is what has worked. If we expect private sector corporations to contribute to the development of ‘a just food system for women’, we need to empower the privileged to work in new ways.

From “equality” to “performance”

All discourses have connotations, and in the corporate world the discourses on gender equality and corporate social responsibility unfortunately imply helping the minority for the good of the minority. Over decades, this approach has not made any appreciable difference for women or people living in poverty, nor has it changed the mindset and behavior of corporate leaders.

"The discourse on gender equality and corporate social responsibility
has not made any appreciable difference for women or people living in poverty.

Research from 2011 reveals that women currently hold 20% of senior management positions globally, down from 24% in 2009, and up just 1% from 2004. Worldwide women hold only 9% of CEO positions, even as the proportion of women in the labor market and middle management positions continuously increases. In recent years there has been no real progress in achieving gender diversity in the highest corporate decision-making bodies despite an increasing amount of companies implementing gender equality and diversity & inclusion initiatives.

My experience is that by emphasizing business benefits (higher performance, reduced costs, new market shares, and sustainable profits) we can change the mindset and behavior of business leaders. When equality and diversity are perceived as business enablers – as levers to performance rather than end goals – they matter to business leaders.

Such a counter-discourse has worked in the global company where I work. Instead of setting goals for equality or diversity, we have set a strategic objective for team composition:

All teams at all levels in all functions must contain no more than seventy per cent of the same gender, generation, national/ethnic background, and educational/disciplinary background. The business rationale is that reducing homogeneity in outlook and perspectives improves performance.

Research and best practices have proven that the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds makes for more sustainable and innovative solutions and decisions, because diverse teams process more information, make better predictions and adopt a longer-term perspective. This can have profound impacts for businesses, producers and consumers.

Over many years I have seen that the first movers in such a change process are those for whom diversity connotes synergy, innovation and performance. As laudable as concerns of fairness and justice may be, they do not appear to create the proper expectations for benefits of diversity to materialize. The business case for diversity and the inclusion of women, on the other hand, does.

Diversity benefits women’s access to food

While diversity in the workforce is important, it alone is not sufficient to bring about meaningful change. Corporations must seek to bring diversity into their supply chains and target more diverse consumers as part of their innovation process and business model. This can have a meaningful impact on food security and the empowerment of women in poverty.

"Corporations must seek to bring diversity into their supply chains
and target more diverse consumers."

For example, in the global food company where I work, consulting poor non-consumers in Africa as part of the business innovation process has paid off for both the company and poor women. Because company leaders learned that poor women could not afford baby formula, the company began producing small day-to-day packages that mothers could afford, instead of the large packages that they could not. Not only did their babies then have more reliable access to food, these female non-consumers suddenly acquired the status of important consumers in the company’s eyes.

Another example is how collaboration with small cocoa bean producers in Africa gave business leaders new insights into how to keep prices and costs stable. Since the cocoa bean industry is volatile, farmers tended to change industry to survive, which indirectly led cocoa bean prices to rise. The company realized that by contributing to high living standards in terms of food security and education for the families of coco bean farmers, it could help prevent these farmers from moving over to the palm oil industry. There was clearly a business case for keeping supply prices stable in a volatile market.

Some companies engage in this kind of inclusive collaboration with small food producers as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments, but I would argue that more companies would do so if the business case was made.

Empower the privileged

The powerful corporate leaders who are one of many blockers to a just food system do not wake up in the morning thinking about how they and their actions are connected to the poor or to women farmers in developing countries. For business leaders to change behavior, the case needs to be made for profit and market shares, not social responsibility. So we need to refocus our discourse: A just food system is one in which all people have access to food, because this will mean more consumers and more sustainable profits for corporations.

"For business leaders to change behavior, the case needs to be made
for profit and market shares, not social responsibility."

We have to change the tools the privileged use to ‘govern’ their actions. This begins with personal development, where business leaders and employees gain a new kind of awareness of the world. They will not fundamentally transform their organizations and ways of doing business until they realize the value in consulting and working with people different from themselves in the global marketplace.

Moving forward

I am convinced that empowering business decision-makers to create inclusive business models will have a multiplier effect. When a few powerful people start moving, they all move eventually.

We have not yet seen more women involved in decision-making processes despite the increasing support of business leaders and all the effort made to empower women. Empowering women does little good when women are part of a power system where profit and personal agendas are the true dictators of behavior.

"Empowering women does little good when women are part of a power system where profit and personal agendas are the true dictators of behavior."

It is time to stop launching actions for more justice, and start lobbying all leaders in public and private industry to commit to reducing homogeneity in decision-making and to building diverse stakeholder collaboration as a natural ’need-to-have’ element in their business models. This I believe will create a fundamental transformation that will contribute to a more ‘just food system’ for women…and everyone.

Download Stop Talking About Equality


Week 2: The discussion continues!

What a great discussion last week!  Thanks to all who posted insightful comments, challenged us to think outside the box, and made specific recommendations for how to move us forward.

Nidhi Tandon kicked off the week with a provocative essay on values and the inherently exploitative nature of global agricultural supply chains. While you agreed with Nidhi that women are at a stark disadvantage when trying to compete in global markets, many also appreciated Elizabeth Vazquez’ practical proposals for increasing women’s negotiating power and identifying global market opportunities for women suppliers in agricultural value chains.

Vandana Shiva’s powerful call to keep seeds in women’s hands sparked an impassioned discussion on the need to recognize and value the traditional farming knowledge and skills that rural women have developed over generations. And yet, many of you expressed a sense of powerlessness: How can we support and scale up agroecological practices in a food system that is increasingly characterized by monoculture and export driven farming?

Fatima Shabodien’s moving essay on the plight of women plantation workers in South Africa struck a nerve. Commentators expressed outrage over the inhumane conditions in which women produce and package the food we eat, calling for alliances of solidarity between consumers and food producers North and South.

A comment that come up again and again throughout the week was the importance of women coming together to defend their interests collectively. You described women’s leadership and collective action as the essential foundations for a more just food system for women. In her essay that wrapped up last week’s discussion, Alexandra Spieldoch echoed this point and offered recommendations to the women’s movement on how to best get gender justice on the global food security agenda.

With today’s essay by Tinna Nielsen, we turn out attention back to the corporate sector and ask ourselves how to get the food and beverage industry to change its ways. Tinna’s call to “stop talking about equality” should certainly spark a lively discussion!

Do you agree with Tinna that making the business case for inclusion and diversity can bring about meaningful changes in the corporate sector? And if the industry change its ways, what impact can this have on women food producers and consumers?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts and reactions!

Stop talking about equality

Thanks Tinna for a brave offering, and thanks to everyone else for the contributions! I really learned a lot from both.

I am late with this as I travel in Yemen and think....mmmm...I am doing some of this right here and now: with some of the people I meet I talk of 'women's needs', and with some of 'women's rights'..because I think I know who will listen to what. So here is the question(s):

do I really know what is most convincing and with whom? And more seriously how far am I prepared to go to disguise/adapt  what I (and my organisation) really believe and stand for? Would we do it for funding purposes? What means for what ends? a very slippery slope indeed..

And if the Rights Based Organizations don't do it, who will? last thing: why are we using 'gender equality' and CSC in the same sentence?

Never stop speaking for justice and equality!

It is no surprise that business people and investors are happy to make more profit from wherever they can, even if it’s selling baby formula to the poorest, or potato chips to a more diverse consumer base of kids that actually need real food, etc.... That they happily do these things does not convince me we should shut up about women's rights, equality and justice and with that injustice. I can see why company bosses might like us to be quite on such troublesome issues. I can see why these business leaders don't like hearing about things like equality and justice. I cannot accept that being silent about our values, our principles and in the face of continued injustice is going to be good.

It is a problematic assumption that these companies profiting from selling to poorer communities, or extending their reach into any new markets, is good for women. All too often large companies have directly and indirectly displaced women traders, displaced women farmers and reduced the opportunity for local women’s livelihoods and autonomy. Too often companies have heavily marketed unhealthy products to women and made good profits out of it at the expense of the health and wealth of women.

The article ends with the notion that essentially business only doing, and only being asked to do what, helps them make greater profits "will create a fundamental transformation". If the argument was that this can contribute to some reforms that in some cases can bring benefits I might have taken it more seriously. Indeed we can all find anecdotal cases of women benefitting from new products or integration into part of a value chain. We can just as well point to another tragic preventable accident in Bangladesh where more than a hundred workers, mostly women have been killed. The overall picture of inequality and exploitation is not the few show case projects of companies where profit and something good for women do meet, any more than it is the most extreme disasters. The overarching relations of power between big companies and women workers and consumers should not be ignored in making claims about how we can transform company practices.

If going for profits will bring positive and fundamental transformation and end hunger and injustice all of us interested in ending poverty and injustice should just be joining the ranks of business and trying to get as rich as we can as quickly as we can. Sadly I don’t find that very satisfactory as an answer to injustice as I have seen how companies unchallenged will do their best, including cutting wages and safety standards, to make more profit. I have also seen how struggles for equality and justice around the world, the uprisings of women and other oppressed people to demand equality and rights, has significantly moved and improved the discourse and practices, including of some businesses. We see international conventions and a media and civil society groups around the world that will not let gender inequality and injustice continue unchallenged. This is what has brought change.

Sweet talking business has only helped them respond to these pressures and reposition their brands in a shifting context that has generally been moving to one where more people expect more justice and equality. Compared to say fifty years ago, aside from some set-backs recently, most of the world is now much more committed to diversity and the rights of women. This has not been achieved due to companies seeking more profit, it has been women and men speaking out for equality and justice, organizing, campaigning, struggling and sometimes making enormous sacrifices for these ideals. Let us not ignore these struggles and sacrifices and let us never stop speaking out for equality and justice.

Profit over people

Thank you Marc!

Sugar coat and cowtow to corporations?! That is how we got to where we are today! Putting profit before people! Those of us seeking a just and equitable food system are making progress. It is slow and purposeful progression, but we are progressing! I will never stop speaking on injustice in the food system and will never sugarcoat the issues of gender and inequality! 

We should never stop working for equality

My point is that we have to keep working for promoting equality but we have to create a discourse where business leaders listen because they understand how equality and social responsability are levers to better business. When gender equality is perceived as an end goal they don't change behavior. My suggestion is that we make sure that we make an impact in the existing business models at the same time as we try to change these models that create unjustice. This is also called nudging - and is very efficient for creating behavioral changes. 

Nudging people by appealing

Nudging people by appealing to their own self interest is not going to bring fundamantal transformation.

What happens when better business (more profit as you are more explicit about in your article) is furthered by more exploitative conditions? This is often the case like the garment industry in Bangladesh where it is good business to have millions of women workinging in extrmely poor conditions. There is a reason why business does this, they are not just nasty people, low paid women workers who are less likely to protest about unsafe conditions crowded into factoires for long hours makes business sense.

The other point I am making is that your nudging only works because of those who have struggled for equality and justice and continue to do so. Without these struggles companies would not be under the pressure they are today to be more equitable and to create better working conditions.

And when it comes to ensuring services like health, education and water for the poorest women can these be met without talking of equality and people's rights? Will business meet these needs if we nudge them?

Profit as the end goal will never achieve gender equality or food justice

"We should never stop working

"We should never stop working for equality" but we should "stop talking about justice and gender equality," ??

How do we and others even know and share what equality is, let along work for it, if we do not talk about it?

Change a system through the language and logics of the system

I have for many years worked at the Danish Institute for Human rights and since 2000 worked to promote gender equality. I know that my provocative proposal about 'stop talking about equality' will not solve all the problems and exploitation in the global food system. We need Rights activists and NGO's etc. to push politicians and corporate leaders to take on a social and global responsibility. But I have also always argued that this work have go hand in hand with empowerment of the privilege to work in new ways - ways that will benefit others than themselves.

But having worked with this for so many years and seeing how things are moving in the wrong direction and the powerful business leaders are still doing business as usual, I am now leveraging (and suggest in the essay that we start doing more of this) what I have experienced to work - and that is to change a system from within by speaking the language of 'the natives' (in this case the business leaders) and to operate within the logic of the system.

As Rights activities and gender equality experts we will not suceed with our cause if we keep operating within a logic of a moral and Rights rationality. What drives business leaders is a resource rationality. What we need to make them understand is that equality is a resource and an enabler to performance and therefore they have to work to promote equality to be successful in the global economy. My experience is that this approach works in terms of behavioral and structural changes within the system (private corporations).

women's rights should not be for sale

Ahh, so now the credentials come out. I will focus on the issues.

Glad that you now concede that your approach will not solve all the problems in the global food system. Leaves me wondering what you meant by "fundamental transformation" in your article.

Glad also that you now recognize that we need rights activists, and NGOs, etc... to push... Would have been great if you had given some acknowledgement of the importance of these struggles in your original article rather than saying things like "It is time to stop launching actions for more justice". For some of us these are not about being provactive in a debate, these are real issues, and there will be people, especially business elite's and their supporters who will indeed be empowered by your words.

As you note discourse is important. We cannot, therefore, fall into the discourse, and definitely not the logic and morality, of those leading systems we are seeking to change. This is not to say we should not tactically use certain arguments in certain contexts, but we need to remain clear that real changes are brought about by shifting the discourse and the morality. To do so we must not be confused by the allure of sitting with the powerful and winning some small gains here and there.

I have not heard any examples of structural change brought about by the approach you are suggesting. I repeat again that it is the struggles of people fighting for justice and equality that have brought the shifts in what is acceptable in our society that make your business leaders now open to the nudges of someone like yourself.

At the end of the day we need to stand up firmly for women’s rights, justice, diversity and equality because these are principles (morals) we hold dear. We will be going down a very dangerous road when such principles have to be justified in terms how they position a company globally for more profit. What happens when these values do not enhance the company’s bottom line or brand? What about women who do not want to be part of company staff, supply chains, or one of their consumers? What happens to those people in our society that can’t or won't add to global corporations bottom lines?

Corporations exist to make a

Corporations exist to make a profit for shareholders primarily. It is refreshing to hear this rather than thinking that companies will act responsibily just because they are nice people.

If social responsibility, equality, the environment, human rights, can be focused upon within corporations because business leaders believe they are profitable then this seems positive. Arguably business leaders should be fired if they are not maximising profit, the idea that CSR is profitable is the only idea that will work for all companies to have this focus.

However, 'CSR' forms only one part of business analysis of what strategic direction is judged to be profitable, and how profitable. There are many instances when it is more profitable to act 'irresponsibly', at least in the short-run. Some coporations may and have reduced payments to producers to gain more profit for their shareholders, likewise the price of consumer goods increase to generate more profit for shareholders in some instances, and employee wages and benefits descrease for this very same reason.

Corporations to generate profit from acting more responsibly is only going to be profitable in some instances, for some companies, not all instances for all companies. This is why regulations, laws, and civil society pressure on corporations is important and essential.

Companies may pay attention and reduce prices to engage more consumers, even poor consumers. But what about those people who do not want to consume, or cannot consume? Within a democracy we should all have a right to an equal voice because we are all citizens, not because of how much we currently buy or might buy in the future. At least this is if we still want this form of democracy.

The term 'responsibility' and 'equality' and 'justice' are all conflicted terms, so whose definition of these terms should count, and whose methods of reaching these goals should be used? The beliefs of business leaders? Leaving 'equality' to the market rather than some form of democratic debate?

Many companies do not want sustainable profits, they want short term profits, and then to run away. A strategy for sustainable profits can also entail a sustained effort to drown out those voices which ask for increased labour rights, lobbying both corporations and governments.

To argue that striving for equality (both internally within a corporation, and externally with other stakeholders) maximises profit is certainly a worthwhile project that has been going for many years, in essence this is CSR. But what about those many Business Leaders that disagree, that have a different strategy to maximise profit, or have a different idea of what equality is and means and how it should be applied? Who will/can/should voice their disagreement with them?

Rich, your comments and

Rich, your comments and questions are spot on:

The term 'responsibility' and 'equality' and 'justice' are all conflicted terms, so whose definition of these terms should count, and whose methods of reaching these goals should be used? The beliefs of business leaders? Leaving 'equality' to the market rather than some form of democratic debate?

I believe that we need to accept that these terms have many meanings, that we need to work with multiple methods (as all the essays suggest), that both the belief of business leaders and role models, and both the market, legislation and democratic debate all have to go hand in hand to push the agenda, that we are all working for. Perhaps someone out there has a better and a more simple answer to these great questions?

enforcing diversity

Thank you, Tinna, for your contribution. I very much enjoyed the read (and the listen). I have some reservations and resistence to what you say.  I need (and want) more time to think it through, which is the sign of a good argument in my view. Do I disagree? Or is just my gut, because injustice is in one sense a call on all of us to speak out? I understand you are saying that we must speak out, but also understand the context in which we are working, and be ready to adapt to that. I can see the point.

I wanted to focus on just one point from your essay: the rule at your company of setting a ceiling (in your case 70:30) on how many of any one kind of person can be part of a team - whether by sex, age, training, etc. When we (civil society) were meeting in Rio 20 years ago, at the Earth Summit, one of the rules that Bella Abzug and the women's movement pushed hard -- and with some success -- was the 60:40 rule. This kind of practical step is a powerful tool, I believe - more than a nudge (though I do not underestimate nudges). It forces people to stop and think. And anything that makes us think, anything that forces us out instinctive or habitual thinking and into deliberate, conscious action, is valuable. It also, as you say, changes outcomes: changing the composition of the group will change the deliberations that follow, will change the options that get put forward, and thus change the eventual outcome. The greater the diversity, the more different options are weighed and the likelier a better idea will emerge. 

I still think, though, that "because it is the right thing to do" is a powerful argument. There is room for shame here - making money out of exploitation is wrong, and there is no reason people working in a corporate set-up should not be reminded of that (they know it, mostly, but are rarely allowed to articulate it). So maybe alongside the meetings with enforced diversity, there can be a check-list on whether to go ahead with a new project that includes, will it leave women worse off? It's rare a project will leave all women worse off, and it might not be a principle that trumps all else (that will depend on the leadership at the company). But it might encourage the company to think twice about which initiatives to back and which to set aside, even if the profit line was promising.

Thanks again for the essay.

Let's refocus the dictators


I have to say that I liked a lot Tinna’s article. Though I studied philosophy and some psychology some years ago, the article reminded me immediately the concept of fallacy of composition that is done when you infer that the property of parts of a whole is property of the whole. In this case Tinna is associating the ‘stop talking about justice and gender equality’ with ‘heterogeneity and diversity of a fairer food system’.  The same fallacy happens when she associates ‘gender equality’ (which has specific positive results) with ‘corporate social responsibility’ (which in reality is a whitewash).  

Last week we discussed about the second idea, and my impression is that we got to an important consensus about the importance of heterogeneity and diversity. To a certain degree in the context of this conversation we have spoken about the importance of talking (yes, talking) about justice and gender equality. So, we had already agreed about the importance of     (yes) “talking about justice and gender equality’ in a context where ‘heterogeneity and diversity will produce a fairer food system’.

We are all witnessing how the existing system - the globalised market system where few people own all - is resulting in poverty and inequality. We have seen how it necessarily results in instability and conflict. My impression is that the richest people, better educated and with more facilities to understand it all, are in capacity to see and manage which are the key variables to achieve a good climate for their businesses (by respecting human rights!) and sustainability for their profits.

We would agree that to a certain degree the problem lies on the discourse. This is a problem of talking that could be easily modified. The real problem is in the concrete practice of producing profits at the cost of fundamental rights. This is a difficult one to solve. We need to find the tools (without ending the marches, strikes and on-line protests) to tell the privileged that they have to improve the situation of the poorest people, otherwise the markets will not grow.

When I reflect on my own life, I find that one of my most important personal learning has been on those variables that were attached to the macho man. I find that I have made important changes to my life, thanks to all what I have learned from women, and particularly from my wife. I think that the feminist discourse has really advanced, and if it doesn’t reflect in the statistics consulted by Tinna, it’s only a problem of time. Real changes take time and 'slow cooking', but changes are happening and the privileged people need to see the direction where things are moving to.  

Consta (last week I signed Cutin, my nickname when I was 4 years old)

Language is key

I agree that the narrative must be relevant to the audience.  This is comms 101.  It does not mean that we never talk about injustice, rather it means that for the corporate sector leaders and indeed, groups focussed on economic output like G20 leaders, the narrative has to be appealing to stand out and be heard.  For four years the G(irls)20 Summit ( had propelled a discussion about the need to economically empower girls and women to benefit communities and countries in terms of growth and stability.  

We invite one girl from each G20 country and one girl from the African Union, aged 18-20, to tackle G20 issues thru the lens of ECONOMICALLY empowering women. This year we will look at Job, growth and investment and will meet in Russia next June.

Last year in Mexico, we tackled food security and the discussion yielded some concrete ideas from the delegates to the G20 leaders and presented them in a language they listened to.  In a world where there is lots of "noise,"  if you want to get your audience's attention and see some traction and action you must ensure you are giving them the argument and the reasons to act in a way that compels them.  

I am not suggesting we drop the language around the "right thing to do" I just thing it is compelling enough to result in action where it is needed.


No end to equality!

Tinna presents yet a new dimension to placing women at the centre of food supply chain. In as much as making a business case for inclusion and diversity can bring desired change in corporate sector approach to improving food supply systems, it does not provide a balanced approached if the corporate sector understands it just as a means of making sustaiable profits. The objectives must be set clearly and unambigiously, else when the profits stop coming due tob factors not considered today, there may be a success setbacks.

I strongly believe that equality issues should still be discussed and pushed at all fronts like all other issues are.

Is it the right pace and right direction?

'The discourse on gender equality and corporate social responsibility
has not made any appreciable difference for women or people living in poverty/  the statement gives me creeps as an african but all said there's lots of truth in the statement. . I risk saying much because I have missed out on lots of arguments and will catch up by end of this dicussion. However it is all about keeping in step. For certain we were  told it is poorest of the poor, then oh no , it is the active poor , then in between it is the vulnerable and marginalized, the bottom line it is not working at least not the right pace to warrant the desired outcomes . 'Keep crawling, you will be strong ' you tell the  child who is unfed  and has sapped the the energy.  The unfortunate truth is that to this group of business leaders,   neither the discourse nor the nudging will work !! Profit is the language they hear , we need to rethink other strategies.  because gender equality and social coporate responsibilty is all in and not news yet we need their help.

Great food for thought

Thank for sharing all these  great perspectives on some of the issues that I raised in my essay. There is a lot of food for thought in all your comment - I'll definitely use these in my further thought work and work in the private sector. 

I have one concrete comment to that of Consta ; that time will do the work and make the efforts for gender equality materialize in decision making bodies in the corporate sector. History, research on unconscious biases and many other subtile barriers, and future prognoses etc estimate that at the current pace we will have gender equality in 2050. We can't afford to wait that long. I strongly believe we have to be a lot more innovative and bold in our approach in order to succeed. Having said that I also strongly believe that Gen Y leaders will make a difference and promote more diversity, Inclusion, and equality as an integrated part of business. That, time will show (let's empower them to do so)

I want to share with you what I heard in the news this morning. In Denmark only a very small segment buy fair trade products. One reason is that they find the prices too high. Some fair trade producers are now rebranding their products by emphasising the quality and branding the products as high quality products. In this way they reach more consumer segments in the Western World because the consumers are willing to pay more for high quality products. This is actually a great example of nudging the priviledged to "do the right thing" without appealing to their morality. 

Maybe this is what we need to do - rebrand gender equality in order to appeal to more segments of the priviledged and  motivate them to "do right" without being dependent on their moral?

Rebranding gender equality and never using the F word again

First and foremost I would like to thank Tinna for your challenging essay.  I am also a representative of the private sector, although of a very small one person consultancy.  Just to remind everyone, we are talking about the food systems and women's role in it, we are talking about food security in terms of access, availability and nutritional value as well as about women's role in production and provision of food.  Corporate boardroom representation statistics aside, women are fundamentally discriminated across the world when it comes to access and control of natural resources, especially when it comes to control of land. Although women are primarily responsible for produciton of food for household consumption in a large number of countries, they rarely control productive resources. The "win-win" situation of rebrandign equality results in women loosing out when large scale land investments transfer their land into planations which are not providing them with sufficinet income while taking away the little food security they could regularly provide to their families through thier own littile plot.  Tinna's "win win" means creating consumers out of developing country women without realizing that they are actually loosing out in the process when they loose thier own productive assets while becoming dependent on extremely volatile market forces.  All citizens, as well as companies, have responsabilities when it comes to human rights obligations. Companies have a responsability, for example, to respect exiting legitmate land rights.  Governments have the responsability to protect such rights.  Elimination of the language of rights in the name of diversity may be attractive to companies, but it doesnt take away thier responsaiblity to respect fundamental human and environmental rights.  Nobody argues against the companies' right to prioritize profit making, but profit making activities have to operate within legal frameworks.  Respecting women's human rights, and by that, the right to equality, is one such fundamental legal framework that everyone, governments, companies and all individuals shoudl respect.

There is such a thing called Convention on Elmination of All Forms of Discrimiantion Against Women.   On this note, CSR mechanisms dont work because they lack enforcement mechanisms.

Women in decision making will make a difference

I absolutely agree, we all have to respect and promote human rights. And i agree that we are talking about access to food and land for women. When I am making a case for diversity and Inclusion in the private corporate sector it is because more women in decision making bodies will help promote access to food and land for women. I believe we should lobby more for this. 

Thank you all for the very interesting discussion.

Gender Justice: Alluta continua

Many thanks Tinna for your informative article  These are my thoughts around the discusiion. Given that business entities are all out to make profits, at whatever cost , their coming out to reach out to 'poor  women' as in the case of small packets of formulae milk highlighted in the article is highly paradoxical. this is an opportunity that was seen by the company and they decided to maximise on it period. 

Inclusivity and diversity, albeit a good approach is too wide and often times the needs of women are never captured and/or disappear in the process  especially when the strategy is not well defined and designed.

Business entities are in the business to make profit at the fastest time possible and will therefore invest little or nothing towards identifying, designing, planning and supporting the genuine needs of consumers especially women.

The call therefore is on the fourth estate to push , rally and raise a voice towards equity and gender equality across food security, systems and chains discourses. Failure to do this would be to wrong the rights that women have and ought to access and enjoy.

A call to action

A good call to action following a great discussion.... Thanks, Hellen!

Choose your strategy and language according to the audience!

Thanks to Tinna for a provocative essay and for those who have commented it. A most useful implication from Tinna's essay (and from postings such as from Farah) is the idea that you need to *strategically adapt* your language (and your tactics) according to the audience you have: speak about gender equality and rights as much as you can, as educators, voters and activists; but speak about "performance" and "self-interest" when you engage with business. The private sector is huge and there to stay and much more important in poor countries because the state and public sector do not work well there. Poor people buy most of their goods and services from the private sector. If we want to reduce the negative impact  from the private sector, sure we can go down the route of (government) regulation and/or social fight but it may be not enough, and it may take a long time. If you want the private sector to engage differently, I agree with Tinna that it may be more effective to nudge them into changes by appealing to their self-interest. The term Impact investment ( is emerging as a catalitic force for engaging the private sector in socially meaningful investment - and a valid route for *some of us* to go down to. I would argue that CSR is short-lived and has shown all its shortcomings as an opportunistic window-dressing.

Thank you Renata for

Thank you Renata for supporting my suggestion on how to make the private corporations contribute  (just one out of many contributions) to a more just food system for women. I thank you for sharring the information about Impact investment - I will definitely look into that (interesting!), Thanks