Making Food Work Visible on International Women’s Day

The world would be better off if there was no need for International Women’s Day. Inequity tied to structural factors fuels gender-related disparities in all walks of life (including in the world of research where our lab of researchers of women of color is a rarity). Consider the following examples from the world of food systems. Women farmworkers execute the bulk of manual work — such as weeding and harvesting — in fields but do not accrue commensurate financial benefits from the sale of products. Small-scale farm households headed by women earn 30% less, on average, than farm households headed by men. In India, women comprise 42% of the agricultural workforce but own only 2% of the land. In the US, half of the graduates of culinary schools are women, yet fewer than 20% are chefs. A greater proportion of women are likely to be farmworkers or food service workers than owners of farms or food businesses, and, therefore, have limited power and material resources within the food system. Within homes, women’s food-related work (of buying and preparing food, and feeding people) remains invisible. The examples are one too many.
We hope that our readers go beyond celebrating the individual successes of women to paying attention to structural questions. Why do gendered disparities continue to exist (in the food system)? Why is there a glass ceiling in the first place? What structural and policy changes are needed at all levels of governance to eliminate gender-related disparities, especially for women from marginalized groups? What would it take for city governments across the United States to conduct an audit of their policies, programs, and budgets to discern if municipal work is truly supporting women in their jurisdictions? Sure, celebrate International Women’s Day — but also act to eliminate gender-related inequities in the food system
Authors: UB Food Lab [Women of Color] Researchers including Insha Akram, Carol E Ramos Gerena, Lorna Georges, Rachel Grandits, Shireen Guru, Samina Raja, Rose Thomas, and Atqa Qadri.
Notes.1. Data sources: Available upon request.2. Photo: Women researchers of the UB Food Lab (Yes, our skills at research don’t necessarily translate well to making a fist).