Disruption at its finest

Disruption at its finest

March 07, 2021

Females and the Future of Coffee 


Developed nations are not as forward thinking as you’d expect

male barista italy, espresso milk steaming

Coffee, like most industries, has predominantly been dominated by males. Women often have had the worst jobs in the industry. I remember being in Italy in 2016, where I visited many cafés in multiple cities, and of course, drank lots of coffee.  

Guess what? In all our coffee drinking adventures in Italy, we met 1 female working in a café. 1 barista, out of dozens and dozens of employees in multiple cafés! 1 female, that’s it. That was so wild to me.  

This was in a developed nation who’s often at the forefront of the coffee industry. I was disappointed and confused as to how this was still possible. As I spoke with locals and did some research, I found out that being a barista in Italy was prestigious and a difficult job to attain. Therefore these roles have often been reserved for men; Luckily, times are changing. 

This experience lit a fire in me. I started asking my contacts in different coffee growing regions about the role women play in the supply chain, from farming, exporting and roasting, all the way across the board. To no one’s surprise, I found out it was male-dominated and women often have the worst jobs in the industry. These jobs are often the most labour intensive, dangerous to their health and they have to care for their children while working. 


Here are some quick facts for you, these are according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO):

  • Under 20% of coffee farms around the world are women-operated. 
  • 70% of hard labour in coffee production is provided by women.
  • Under 10% of export licenses belong to women in coffee.


1st women care certified coffee farm in the world

Historically, women's groups and associations are a well-established means for improving rights and access to services; Their focus is on providing social and economic empowerment. 

women care certified

At Road Coffee, we align with that mission. We believe in building capacity through access to information, credit, infrastructure and other business development services. All of this is required to ensure women's involvement in decision-making processes. This is why we are proud and honoured to partner with Ceci Genis. 

During the World Coffee Expo in 2018, I heard a coffee farmer boldly ask a question in an intimidating room of coffee professionals. The boldness of the question and the courage to challenge the status quo in the epicenter of our industry caught my full attention and I immediately went and found that lady. I was about to meet 2 ladies who would become not only friends but strong business allies in the coffee industry. Turns out I had met a hidden legend, Ceci Genis. 

Talk about breaking glass ceilings! First Women Care Certification awarded

Fourth-generation coffee farmer Cecilia Genis runs Zalmari Coffee Estate, Marigold Murray, located in Cachí, Orosí Valley in Costa Rica. This family’s coffee plantation began in the 1920’s, and their commitment to quality coffee and community continues to be the strongest thread from generation to generation.

Alisha and Ceci, women care certified coffee farm costa rica

In 2003, Ceci along with other women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the US came together with a specific passion: To focus on improving all aspects of the coffee industry by empowering and connecting women. With their vision, and the support of our founding partners, the idea for the International Women in Coffee Association (IWCA) was born. Ceci is a key member and past President of the IWCA-Costa Rica Chapter, supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the coffee industry. Ceci’s coffee estate was the 1st farm in the world to become women-care certified. 

Talk about breaking glass ceilings! Ceci is a legend that humbly flies under the radar. Not all heroes wear capes, most actually have dirt under their fingernails. 

Disruption at it’s finest!

women in coffee, coffee farmer, costa rica coffee

Export and import licenses are difficult to come by, and usually take time and jumping through some hoops, especially export licenses. Many countries have limited export licenses available and they’re often controlled by the rich and powerful. Export licenses are an important piece to the supply chain, because no product can leave the country without one. There is a lot of power and influence to those who have them. Interesting enough, less than 10% of export licenses belong to women. 

Here’s where it gets really interesting. With our Costa Rica coffee, the supply chain is fully female. Now after understanding how rare it is for women to be in leadership roles within the industry, you can see how powerful this is! From our coffee farmers, to the exporter, importer and of course myself as the founder of Road Coffee - the entire chain is female. This is a rare and a beautiful example of what can happen when women are supported and empowered.  


coste rica coffee, coffee subscription

Our Costa Rica coffee is delicious and tastes great. It’s well balanced flavours are perfect for espresso, drip coffee and makes a tantalizing cold brew coffee. 

We’re inspired and we’re not stopping here! We are now focusing efforts on working with female coffee farmers in Peru to empower them through our micro-loan program. Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date!


Author: Alisha Esmail