March brings the assurance of warmth, of the beginning of life for many of Mother Nature’s creations. It brings us spring, and most importantly, it gives us a reason to celebrate women. As it happens, March is Women’s History Month and therefore it is the perfect time to commemorate the importance of women in the coffee industry, and remind ourselves of what women have contributed to it.
Despite women being responsible for up to 70% of the labor that goes on in coffee production and representing the vast majority of coffee farmers, they have not traditionally received the recognition they should. Women play essential roles when it comes to coffee cultivation, roasting, and quality. As stated by a report from CQI, “women’s work in coffee growing is mainly performed during those phases that affect the sensory quality of production.” In other words: women are crucial when it comes to the taste of coffee.
A few movements have been started in order to bring awareness to the lack of equality concerning this matter. One is #shestheroaster, which started in 2016 as a result of that year’s U.S. Roaster Championship. Although there were over 40 competitors, not even one of them was a woman. The Roasters Guild Event Committee got together that year to figure out a way in which to make women feel confident and comfortable enough to participate in the competition, and the hashtag campaign was born as a result. #shestheroaster took off as an organization in 2017 with the help of Talor Browne, who was the brains behind creating this now education not-for-profit organization which helps get more women into the roasting industry. What started out as a simple hashtag has now expanded into a movement who’s mission is to promote and encourage women in the coffee industry to become professional coffee roasters. As stated on their site, #shestheroaster aims to not only increase the diversity of the roasting community, but to also offer financial assistance to women for roasting courses, to become instructors, as well as to help them explore career options in roasting. It is incredible to look at something which started as a simple hashtag and now see that it is changing the face of coffee roasters.
Another popular website dedicated to the cause of bringing equality in the coffee world is Women in Coffee, also known as the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). The idea for IWCA was born in 2003, after a group of women from the US, Costa Rica and Nicaragua came together to focus on their shared interest: improve all aspects of the coffee industry by empowering and connecting women. Their mission is to empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives, as well as to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry. This respectable organization aims to adopt the values of respect, sustainability, equity, integrity, collaboration and inclusion in their mission of empowering women.
As Kelle Vandenberg, Director of Development from IWCA said, women are getting together with other women, they are “building and creating opportunities and paving their own path—because they’re not going to ask permission to walk on the established road.” With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8th, it is important to support such organizations and movements, to make them stronger, and to keep on working to improve conditions for women in the coffee industry.