Since 1900, International Women’s Day on March 8th, has been observed to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and serves as a reminder to continue working towards gender equality.
According to recent Harman Group data, while grocery shopping is becoming an increasingly shared task, women are almost 80% more likely to be the main shopper and meal preparer. Retail in general has been dominated by men in leadership and women as shoppers. But as you might suspect, co-ops have long been leaders in closing the gender gap. From Kitchen Supervisors, Bakers and Cooks, women are an important part of our grocery.
The first retail grocery cooperative opened in Rochdale England on December 21, 1844 and sold butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal, and candles as a way to get quality food to working class people. The 28 Pioneers were clear that membership should be open to everyone who could benefit from their services, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion. They were committed to equal opportunities 150 years before the term became commonplace. Founded on the principle of ‘One Member, One Vote’, cooperatives welcomed working class people to the decision-making process - including women, long before women would gain the right to vote (1920 in the US, 1928 in the UK).
Today, co-ops, including Wheatsville, continue to lead the way. Our current Board of Directors is 45% women (about 20% in traditional business), our leadership team is 59% female and senior leadership is 44% female. In traditional retail businesses 42% of women hold mid-level manger jobs, 37% hold senior level manager jobs, and just 8% are CEO’s, according to Catalyst, Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Retail Trade (August 22, 2017).
While women still have work to do locally, nationally, and globally – it’s important to recognize our co-op’s commitment to our shared Cooperative Values and Principles. Together we are actively creating the kinds of social change we want to see in the world. By contributing to businesses that support these ideals, we can all help lift each other up.