Women in Coffee: The Power of Positive Role Models

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Around the world, women complete most of the unpaid household work, often regardless of whether women contribute to the household income or not. Yet research has shown that with female economic empowerment, communities and families develop more resilience for the future.

Fairtrade social premiums (20cents per pound) are often used to fund initiatives that promote gender equality in the home, help women farmers access credit and they have provided technical training which enables women to improve the yield and quality of their coffee crop.

Since 2017, 100% of Bewley’s coffee is Fairtrade

Selling coffee to a cooperative has enabled Rosa and her husband to expand their home, as they had increased the amount of land they farm from 1 to 3 manzanas, thus generating more income for the family. They are stronger together. Rosa’s daughter is studying nursing at university and Rosa herself used to be a health assistant in the health screening programme funded by the cooperative. This screening programme screens for breast and prostate cancer.

As a female coffee farmer in her own right Maxima now has access to credit, not just as her husband’s wife, and she understands about price and quality. She loves feeling part of the cooperative who also fund schools and education for her community through the Fairtrade social premium.

In wider society, we talk a lot about the impact of powerful female role models. These role models can be found in all walks of life and inspire the next generation.

Heydi is the daughter of coffee farmers. She grew up working with her parents on the farm, spent time gaining work experience as a coffee harvest estimator and is now running a chocolate project selling chocolate into the local market in Nicaragua. She also hopes to study accountancy at university. This is all with the support of her coffee cooperative and assistance from the Fairtrade premiums. Heydi visited Ireland last year as part of Fairtrade Fortnight and we welcomed her here to Bewley’s.

It’s not just in coffee producing countries. Coffee can offer fantastic and varied careers for women all over the world

In Ireland, Maria Cassidy, (Bewley’s Training Manger) recently gained her Q grader licence, which had been a long-held ambition. She’s the first female Q grader in Ireland, having achieved her qualification with the Coffee Quality Institute in Madrid. During Maria’s 20 year career, which includes a stint in the US, she has worked closely with the SCA Irish Chapter as a sensory judge and coached many competitors to success. Commenting on women’s ability to taste, Maria says “Women are naturally suited to a career in coffee. We have more taste buds than men which give us a strong advantage from the start! Tasting and having strong sensory skills is key to success in the coffee industry, we must be able to appreciate and recognise when we encounter really beautiful coffee.”

Lara Hunter Rodwell has worked in coffee for over 15 years in Australia and the UK and she, like Maria, is championing women in coffee by encouraging more women to enter what has historically been quite a male-dominated world; coffee competitions.

Lara competed in Cup Tasters in 2016 & 2017, has judged competitions at a national level and has been training members of her team to compete in competitions, with the support of Bewley’s and there are women keen to give it a go. Commenting on her recent trip to origin with Bewley’s Lara said “I believe the wonderful world of coffee should be accessible to anyone, whether you’re a farmer, a cooperative leader, a farm owner, a Q grader, a roaster, sales manager or just a coffee lover. I love to see female role models in this industry as it inspires other women to continue their career in coffee.”

Adding to this Bewley’s Sustainability Manager, Louise Whitaker says “Gender equality is vital for long-term economic development. The UN Sustainable Development Goals feature Gender Equality as goal 5 and we’d be wrong to assume this goal is restricted to developing world countries, gender equality benefits society regardless of where you are. Coffee offers a great career for many people and it is fantastic to hear stories from women of all ages and backgrounds for whom coffee is making a significant difference to their lives. I’d include myself in that too!”


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