October 01, 2020

On the role of women trade trainers

In trade for development, more female trainers could make a big difference

When we think about trade training across the globe, there is a stark picture with respect to the role of women – and it tends to look something like this:

• Women trade trainers are significantly under-represented;

• Women in developing countries face greater obstacles in becoming trainers;

• As a result, women are generally less empowered to take on these roles, despite women’s networks and empowerment programmes targeting developing countries having potential to make a substantial difference.

Developing countries tend to have far fewer women in decision-making roles overall, which in the trade context creates greater obstacles for women to become part of global value chains – to highlight a major, practical trade example.

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According to the International Trade Centre, women face such gendered barriers as official bans to holding certain jobs, maternity obstacles and employment restrictions – all despite doing twice more unpaid care work. This results in working much longer hours than men when considering care work, despite having lower access to capital and productive resources. For example, in agriculture, women tend to be engaged in subsistence production that is consumed within the house, or in the case of being engaged in marketable production, not to have rights to monetary compensation for their work. As a result, there is undoubtedly a male monopoly on trade-related jobs on the ground.

It is well documented that such gender gaps can deepen as a result of trade policies that do not have an explicit gender component. The movement in support of the economic empowerment of women has done much to bring this issue to the forefront of global trade assistance programmes and to shape trade-related technical assistance to developing countries. This has taken the form of successful efforts on affirmative action, gender-based quotas and awareness-raising campaigns. As a result, more women are moving towards opportunities in international trade, but the speed at which this is happening continues to be underwhelming.

For a number of years, international assistance for developing countries has contained a mainstream gender component or explicitly targeted women to ensure balanced representation. More recently, speaking and discussion events cannot be run without women (no “manels” or male only panels), and stakeholder consultation processes must include women.

But how sustainable are these inclusion efforts? Do they really challenge gender roles? Recent data suggests that due to the social and economic factors that shape unequal gender roles in developing countries, these changes are happening at a very slow pace.

Trade trainers tend to come from different backgrounds – diplomacy, negotiations, academia and civil service – tracks which all require extensive education and career commitment. Not by coincidence, all of these tracks are also where women are traditionally underrepresented.

Could the rate and effect of these programmes on gender equality be accelerated? Yes, and highlighting women trainers in both developed and developing countries and empowering them to take up these roles could be one such avenue.

Trade-related training by definition deals with questions of power and authority, and is based on issues such as economy, regulation, laws and politics. Trade trainings are conducted on potentially any topic – from such issues as how to incorporate environment mainstreaming into trade policy to how to diversify the trade portfolio of a country, from how to understand technical standards to how to conduct negotiations of a trade agreement – as the resource of trade-related issues is almost limitless.

Trade trainers tend to come from different backgrounds – diplomacy, negotiations, academia and civil service – tracks which all require extensive education and career commitment. Not by coincidence, all of these tracks are also where women are traditionally underrepresented. Promoting women in trade training roles can have the significant effect of empowering women in all areas of trade and creating powerful role models for other women. In developing countries especially, women trade trainers can influence a range of practical aspects of women in trade and trade policy. Women trainers can better illustrate that including women in trade does not take benefits away from men – stigma that has been widely documented to be wrong, but still persists in cultural biases. According to the IMF, closing the gender gap – mainly from simply adding workers to the labor force – could increase the GDP by an average of 35%.

At Geneva Trade Week 2020, the Trade Experettes, an international group of women trade experts, drew attention to the components of trade training such as effective communication, the role of teaching and ways of connecting to the audience.

Trade trainers can not only convey the practical content, but also create a critical thinking environment that encourages participants to question and adapt their behavior – either related to business decisions or policy making. Quite often trade trainings provide a direct link between the policy and business (including SMEs) dialogues. Many trade agreements with developing countries provide benefits to SMEs, but without businesses knowing how to make use of these benefits, these trade agreements are not serving their intended purpose. Also, understanding which particular regulatory measures that businesses have to comply with can constitute a trade barrier, and therefore they should be be eliminated.

Representing the change herself, in a developing country a women trainer can create a change of thinking – around possibilities associated with being a woman in trade, and around the perception of a woman in trade amongst men.

Representing the change herself, in a developing country a women trainer can create a change of thinking – around possibilities associated with being a woman in trade, and around the perception of a woman in trade amongst men. Identifying women trade trainers, supporting them to improve their skills and including them in wider networks of women trade professionals have the potential to contribute to improving gender equality in trade contexts in developing countries.   

Starting just over two years ago, Trade Experettes became a global network of female trade professionals with these clear objectives – to give louder voices to women in trade, increase their presence and project their ideas and opinions into global trade policy debates. For Geneva Trade Week, Trade Experettes brought together their expertise to provide a unique perspective on trade training, emphasizing the crucial role of the teaching component and giving tips for effective trade communication with your audience. While the content and topics of the panel did not focus directly on the gender divide, their presence in and of itself made a statement in placing women trade trainers centre stage, and making a contribution to the global movement to economically empower women. 

 

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For all Geneva Trade Week 2020 coverage, see here.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework is an Inclusivity Partner of Geneva Trade Week 2020.

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Header image of a UN Women discussion on parental leave - ©UN Women/Ryan Brown via Flickr Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.

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Any views and opinions expressed on Trade for Development News are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of EIF.