Thursday, March 10, 2016

Role of women in rice research and food security highlighted during IWD 2016

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The contributions of women to rice research and food security were acknowledged during the 2016 International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration on 8 March at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Poster by J. Lazaro, IRRI. Pledge for Parity exhibit 
Although movements to increase gender equality have brought women increasing power in the workplace—40% of all IRRI staff worldwide and 36% of nationally recruited staff are women—gender biases persist in many organizations.

IWD symposium guest speaker Esther Velasco, team leader of the European External Action Services Instrument for Peace and Stability Gender Facility, challenged IRRI staff to recognize conscious and unconscious gender biases embedded in the organization's culture.

“Men and women are assessed very differently," said Velasco. “Women with strong personalities are often criticized as aggressive and over-ambitious while men are never described as over-ambitious.” She challenged IRRI staff to start thinking about such unconscious gender biases based on culture. "Let us continue to inspire leaders to remove these barriers," she emphasized.

IRRI Director General Matthew Morell stressed the importance of making the institute an employer of choice for women in research at all levels, from leadership positions through its activities. “We are committed to enhancing gender equity and the role of women at the institute,” he said in a prerecorded message presented at the symposium.

“Engaging with women's issues is a critical part of delivering IRRI's mission. Many rice farmers and researchers are women,” Morell added. “We need to continue to empower them and facilitate the achievement of impact through them and for them.”

Source: FAO
Infographic by C. Calamlam, IRRI 
A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization showed that in 97 countries, only 5% of women are directly reached by agricultural extension services. “We need to embody gender issues into our research programs not as an afterthought, but as a key part of the planning and project development process,” said Morell.

Christine Croombes, head of IRRI's Human Resources Services, encouraged women and girls to achieve their ambition. George Kotch, head of IRRI's Plant Breeding Division, called for a gender-balanced leadership. Inez Slamet-Loedin (photo below), IRRI senior scientist and head of the Genetic Transformation Laboratory, shared her experience as the first Indonesian globally recruited staff at the institute and how important it is to have flexible and inclusive cultures.

In addition, Pieter Rutsaert, IRRI social scientist, and Slamet-Loedin participated in a live Periscope broadcast on gender equality. Rutsaert discussed how women rice farmers in South Asia are benefiting from shared resources (view on YouTube). Slamet-Loedin reiterated her views on creating flexible and inclusive cultures (view on YouTube). 

A poster exhibit, Pledge for Parity, was unveiled at IRRI Headquarters. The exhibit, opened by Croombes and Corinta Guerta, director of External Relations, focuses on the promises of the symposium speakers to further boost gender equality at IRRI. The exhibit is open to the public until 25 March.

View a video of the IWD highlights at IRRI.
See IWD 2016 Photos 

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