Starbucks Fights India’s Gender Inequality

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — A special, female-run Starbucks cafe stands at the Shivaji Stadium in Delhi City. Its sister cafe sits along the Western Express Highway in Goregaon. These all-women stores are a part of Tata Starbucks’ ongoing commitment to combating India’s gender inequality.

Tata Starbucks is a joint venture between Tata Global Beverages and Starbucks. Since its beginning eight years ago, 191 stores have opened across the country with over 2,000 employees. The CEO of Tata Starbucks, Navin Gurnaney, takes great pride in the company’s work to address India’s gender inequality, stating, “As a leading employer in India, we have a responsibility to invest in initiatives that advance education and skills development among girls and young women.”

Gender Inequality in India

In India, girls and women do not have equal opportunities for education or work. Women only officially contribute 17% to India’s GDP, one of the lowest rates among developing nations. Most women can only find work in the informal sector, and it almost always goes unpaid.

India’s gender inequality is gaining attention at the federal level, however. India’s government now includes women’s empowerment as part of the nation’s economic reform. The reform helped create the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. This legislation guarantees women equal pay to men and provides provisions for childcare at job sites. In 2017, India also made it federal law for employers to give women 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.

However, these laws are not entirely effective since most women work in the informal sector. India must also prioritize the creation of formal work opportunities for women to reap the economic benefits. As a result, India’s gender inequality is still costing the nation billions of dollars each year. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, India’s economy could increase by $770 billion by 2025 if women have formal work opportunities.

How Tata Starbucks Helps Women

Tata Starbucks is setting the example for other companies in India to commit to women’s equality and empowerment. The company offers women opportunities to enter the formal work sector and creates a supportive environment to retain female workers. Last year Tata Starbucks closed the gender pay gap entirely between their male and female employees. The company also has its “Brew of Balance” initiative, which provides support and flexibility for women returning to the workforce from maternity leave and other temporary absences of leave. Tata Starbucks ultimately hopes to increase female representation to 40% by the end of 2022 in its company.

As a result of the joint venture’s social progress initiatives, The Great Place Work Institute has recognized Tata Starbucks as one of the top 75 best workplaces for women in India. It has also been listed as one of the best companies for women in India by Working Mother and Avtar for three years.

Partnership Initiatives With Tata Starbucks

Just before Thanksgiving, Tata Starbucks announced its “Empowering Girls & Women” initiative. The program’s primary focus is on education, skills and economic empowerment for girls and women. This program will be in collaboration with two local nonprofits, Educate Girls and VIDYA India. Both organizations focus on educating and empowering women and girls to become contributing citizens in their communities. Combined, they operate in over 18,000 villages and have helped over four million people.

This new program will help 2,000 girls and women across the country in the first year. Every Tata Starbucks store in India will cover the cost of enrollment for at least one girl’s primary schooling. Furthermore, both all-women stores will donate a percentage of all transactions to Educate Girls. VIDYA is also inviting Tata Starbucks employees to volunteer as mentors for girls 4-18 years old.

All three organizations are excited about the extraordinary work this new initiative will achieve for India. This is Educate Girls’ first time collaborating with a store that will sponsor a girl’s education. Founder and Executive Director of Educate Girls, Safeena Husain says, “Together we hope to strongly advocate for gender equality, equal right to education and enable our girls to become contributing members of our society.” VIDYA India’s founder and chair, Rashmi Misra, has similar feelings and believes the collaboration is a huge step toward an India where “every woman gains economic independence and social equity.”

LaCherish Tompson
Photo: Unsplash

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