Advancing gender equality: The co-operative way

Great strides have been made towards gender equality over the last two decades. Nevertheless, deep gender disparities persist across the globe, surfacing in labour markets, as well as other realms. Compared to men, women continue to earn less, are more likely to partake in unpaid labour, and are more apt to be excluded from decent work and opportunities for advancement. As gender equity is increasingly seen as a pillar for sustainable economic development and broad social well-being, alternative models to development which incorporate women’s equality in work are needed. Rooted in values of self-help, equality, and equity, as well as economic growth through cooperation and democratic processes, co-operative enterprises are well-positioned to answer this call.

The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, adopted by the General Assembly of Alliance in 2012, set forth key ambitions for the co-operative movement. According to the Blueprint, one critical area for co-operative development is creating economic opportunities for marginalized populations—especially women. Another key area is to, “elevate
participation within membership and governance to a new level”, which entails expanding membership to include more women and further engaging women members in co-
operative democratic processes. Despite a push for gender equity in co-operative policy and practice, little evidence has documented whether and in what ways co-operatives affect women’s empowerment and gender equity. The present report aims to address this knowledge gap.