Fishing for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in the Seafood Industry
“Out of sight, out of mind” is no longer an approach we can take in the seafood industry. Women represent roughly half of the fishing workforce and an estimated 70 percent of the global aquaculture industry. And because women take on roles that are often invisible and unpaid, the representation of women is likely even higher. Women make a tremendous contribution to the seafood industry, and yet they continue to be undervalued, vulnerable to some of the worst working environments, and even sexual victims in their seafood roles. Addressing gender inequality and empowering women in seafood is an essential first step, before we can approach other complicated issues in seafood. In recognition of International Women’s Day this Sunday, we invite all seafood stakeholders – consumers, chefs, retailers, suppliers, producers, and government – to apply a gender lens to the industry to find solutions year round.
“Fishing” tends to be narrowly viewed as only catching fish at sea, which often leaves women out of the equation. Because women tend to take on more basic roles like fish processing, local sales, and subsistence fishing, these activities are often overlooked in fisheries management and research. This oversight not only creates a gender gap in wages and opportunities, but also a loss of valuable specialized knowledge and experience that could support research and policy. And because fishing subsistence activities are not factored in, catch data is not included in research, which creates further gaps in data and hurdles for ensuring sustainable fisheries management plans.
The United Nations in its Sustainable Development Goals outlines 17 global objectives to be achieved by 2030. Women empowerment and gender equality are key to reaching these goals. Momentum is being made to recognize women in seafood, but we have a long way to go. The more we can raise awareness and empower women, the closer we will get to achieving our shared global goals.
Companies that supply seafood are starting to make business commitments to source socially responsible fish. Organizations like the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative and Oxfam are also working together to build a gender inclusion market differentiation program into seafood supply through their social standards. This could provide chefs and seafood buyers with solutions that both empower and support women in seafood. For the past several years, FishWise has also participated in IntraFish’s Women in Leadership Summit, which has been an inspiring event in which to recognize celebrate female leadership in the seafood industry.
Female chefs are also lending a valuable voice to educate consumers about the importance of making responsible seafood decisions for our oceans and the lives that depend on them. Chef Danielle Leoni, Executive Chef of the Breadfruit & Rum Bar and Smart Catch Leader, participated in the James Beard Foundation’s 2018 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, which is working to empower women and help to build equality in the restaurant and food industry. Chef Leoni stated, “In order to create equity for women in the food industry, first our powerful contribution to our economy, our communities, and in shaping the history of food has to be acknowledged. This positive female narrative needs to be shared and perpetuated.” She continued, “This starts by women overtly supporting women and finding a platform for change by aligning with the organizations that also want a fair, equitable and just food system.”
The 2020 International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual. Women’s rights are no longer an issue that only women face. Economies, communities and the environment all depend on gender equality. Together, we can build a gender-equal world, and we invite you to be part of creating and supporting the solutions.