At Pact Coffee, we’re dedicating March to women in the coffee industry. Partly to raise issues of gender inequity and unfairness… but also to just point out that a lot of them exist.
Challenging the misrepresentation and/or underrepresentation of certain groups in employment comes down to visibility. People associate being a farmer with being a man, as that’s what they’re shown. The same with CEOs, Formula 1 drivers, footballers, and senior management in general… without showcasing women in those roles, attitudes and aspirations won’t change.
Take a moment to get to know Karla Baquero. You’ve probably read about the Asomuprisma Women’s Association before - she’s the daughter of their lead representative, Siria, and the youngest member of the group.
A third-generation woman farmer, she’s seen things change for women in the industry - but knows there’s a long way to go:
“The main problem is that any decisions that women make, their husbands do not respect them. There is no credibility given to women. There is still a model in which the man is the one who rules on the farm.”
She’s not taking that though. Already with her own farmland, she’s produced a Limited Edition worth coffee (that means it’s very high quality) - El Triunfo.
It got the familiar, firm flavour of apricot, with a distinctive yet mild acidity, and an indulgently rich dark chocolate note, that hits you from the moment you first breathe in the aroma - lasting until the last moments of the lingering aftertaste. Yup, she’s nailed it. Get a bag while you still can.
The lack of visibility of women in certain roles is a problem, for a whole range of reasons. Changing that matters: one study showed that men in India who’d seen two or more women village leaders were more likely to vote for a women leader again, and another found that women would pursue a STEM major if their professor wasn’t a man. The Rockefeller Foundation - which exists to promote the“well-being of humanity”- has said having women visible in influential positions is essential both for overall empowerment, but also real societal change.
If women don’t see people like them in leadership positions, or in certain industries, how can they know that they belong there? Research shows they can even see life “at the top” as a negative space for women - because of assumptions about the requirements of being in such a position, and who usually fills them.
There’s lots of ways to raise visibility. The Woman’s Classical Committee arranges “editathons” to combat gender imbalance of historical figures - filling in pages on important women figures, as 5 out of 6 of all its biographies are on men. Another way is providing realistic, honest role models - shifting towards a naturally gender-balanced representation, rather than a few unattainable stand-out cases.
Companies need to take a holistic approach - not claiming an ‘equal playing field’ because one board member is a woman, but looking at representation, opportunities, and progressive encouragement across the board.
Showcasing Karla could help to show other young girls and women that farm ownership is a workable aspiration - and as the next generation is less and less likely to carry on farming, putting the future of coffee at risk, this is essential. She’s more than a role model, though - so we asked her a few questions to get to know her:
What do you like and dislike about coffee farming?
I like the process of working with coffee. I like to see how coffee farming can generate employment and how success can be shared with people on the farm.
I do not like that the work is very physically heavy, and that because of the sale price of coffee, in many cases, the financial investment and the effort invested in the farm is not recovered.
Did you always want to work in coffee farming?
I always wanted to work with coffee, because it is the family’s heritage. It is what we know and love to do, although there can be very hard times due to market prices not allowing us to have a good quality of life.
What are your hopes for the future?
I would like to travel a lot. Travel, meet people, and learn from the world. I also want to have business skills that allow me to improve the farm and ensure a better future for my family.
What’s the most important thing your mother Siria has taught you?
Having character, and being decisive with your thinking. If she believes something, she commands respect. And to respect others.
What problems do women face in the coffee industry?
The main problem is that any decisions that women make, their husbands do not respect them. There is no credibility given to women. There is still a model in which the man is the one who rules on the farm. On the farm, the effort made by women in their farm is not valued - efforts which are essential to keep track of finances, cleaning, food, etc.
Do you think things are changing?
Yes. Increasingly, there is more awareness of women and their role on the farm. There are new plans, conferences, and training sessions for women and their families. It will not be easy because years-old traditions are not easy to change, but we are improving. If we compare the way in which my mother, Siria and I work on the farm, you can see the evolution, and that our contribution to the farm is increasingly recognised.
Fancy trying the dark chocolate, apricot-flavoured El Triunfo coffee? Feel even better about grabbing a bag (you can buy it here) because £1 from each bag is going to Hand in Hand International - a charity working to help women escape poverty through entrepreneurship.\ \ Women are disproportionately living in poverty, so the charity works to change this by providing realistic employment opportunities. They help women form groups, give them tools and training, and help them find a market to sell to - improving their situation through empowerment. We’re proud to be supporting them this month.
We'll arrange a 30-minute visit with you, to tell your
stakeholders what we're about and show off a few of our