Julie, tells us why you decided to launch the GWF Awards.
Julie Escobar: We decided to create the first Global Women Impact Award to celebrate women in our industry. By recognising a woman globally, we aim to continue to work on our goal of creating the leading platform for women in our industry and to be the voice to our global community.
The company award was established to educate other companies on the topic of gender equality, the importance of developing company policies that support women’s advancement in the corporate world. Showcasing how other companies around the world are developing policies and providing the infrastructure for women to succeed in our industry is a critical part of how we can all help achieve gender equality.
You set up Global Women Fresh at the beginning of 2019. What are some of the highlights of the past two years?
JE: Our community now has more than 1,000 members from all over the world and we have created impactful partnerships that are helping us have a strong voice in our industry.
For example, we have partner with the United Nations/ITC SheTrades initiative that aims to empower more than three million women by the end of 2021. Our work together to empower small business owners in Africa has been incredibly gratifying and successful. We have trained hundreds of women in business topics such as leadership, finance, food safety, sustainability and much more.
We have also partnered with Global Rights for Women, a global non-profit that works to tackle domestic violence around the world. With the onset of Covid-19 we have seen levels of domestic violence rise dramatically.
One of our GWF board members, Nina Patil of Fresh Express, has organised a series of webinars for women farmers in India to educate them and give them tools to fight against domestic violence.
We are fortunate to have received a great amount of probono hours from recognised speaker and coach Michelle Redfern who has helped us to train hundreds of women around the world on key topics.
Our global board includes leaders from around the world representing top produce companies as well as industry organisations like Fruit Logistica, PMA and United Fresh to name a few.
The pandemic has been a particularly challenging time for women, many of who have borne the brunt of juggling work with childcare and looking after elderly relatives. This is the subject of your next webinar isn’t it?
JE: Yes it is. Our goal is to bring content that matters to our community. At this particular moment of history, it is critical that we can have a candid and honest conversation about the impacts of Covid on women in the workforce and what companies can actually do to alleviate this pain.
Our next virtual event, which takes place on 12 May, we will be inviting key global speakers to discuss this topics. We’ll also be announcing the winners of the GWF Awards.
Do you think companies in the fresh produce industry will usher in any positive changes for women when it comes to work/life balance?
JE: I think so. I have to be optimistic that they will. It will probably happen in some countries of the more progressive countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Norway and Finland. I think it has taken us all a year to sink into the new reality. I see a lot more companies allowing people to work from home and I do not see a big rush for companies to bring people back into an office until at least towards the end of 2021.
I also think that technology will give both companies and employees more opportunities to stay connected regardless of where we are. Last, but not least, as the vaccines start to roll out around the world, this will give mothers and caregivers more breathing space, allowing them to think about how to manage the new reality of the new world that we live in.
What has the pandemic taught you personally over the past year?
JE: Great question! It has personally taught me the concept of adaptability. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was very nerve wrecking and stressful for me to stay put in one place for more than a few months (throughout my 15-year international career, I haven’t stopped travelling).
My silver lining is that it has been incredible for my mental and physical health. I am more grounded than ever, I have developed other great hobbies and I have taken the time to grow my community where I live. I moved to a very small community in Oregon and I now enjoy nature, fresh air and my dog more than anything else.
Finally, what other projects does GWF have lined up for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
JE: Our biggest event of the year will be the awards on 12 May and we will continue to bring content that matters through our social channels. Nonetheless, we are mindful of the fact that our global community may also be suffering from a Zoom overload and sometimes less is more. We will continue to curate our content and embrace the kind of dialogue that can help all women be in a better place, while continuing to develop our global partnerships.
Nominations will be accepted until 20 April and the winners will be announced at GWF’s next webinar in early May.
To nominate an individual and/or company and view the nomination criteria visit: