Research has shown that mining investments can catalyse economic growth and reduce poverty in developing countries.  Resource company’s local economic contribution can be enhanced through direct, indirect and induced employment in host communities.

It is indirect employment through community development where most extractives investment can have the most impact on women’s economic empowerment. There are often not many jobs in the operations phase of a mine, it is therefore vital that women have opportunities throughout the broader extractives supply chain and beyond the extractives industries. Companies can support programs in other sectors to ensure that there are opportunities for business development and income beyond the life of the mine. One particular area outside the mine gate is inclusive business and SME development.

There are several benefits for companies who develop inclusive business and SME as part of a community development program, including: 

  • Enhancing your position as valued members of the community.
  • Developing your social license to operate.
  • Reducing local income inequality.
  • Managing expectations amongst communities of full employment while supporting inclusive economic development for the broader community.
  • Enabling companies to leverage existing social and community infrastructure investments including roads, airports, ports, water supply, transportation, and vessels to achieve long-term sustainable social and economic impact both during and post mine life.

For communities, it can mean:

  • Increased livelihoods and sustainable income opportunities that exist beyond employment of the mine and can exist post mine life.
  • Increased prospects of overcoming the stagnation of local economies that become overly reliant on royalty payments and welfare which can have a long-term negative impact.
  • Creating long-term pathways out of poverty.

It is hard enough to start an inclusive business. Why then, should it potentially have a gender focus? The following benefits can be achieved through considering gender when developing an inclusive business:

  • It is highly likely you will have a sustainable inclusive business with a higher ROI if women are either controlling the enterprise or involved. This is because they tend to have a strong vested interest in the business succeeding.
  • Empowering women is likely to ensure economic development of the community thanks to the multiplier effect. This will give the mining company a stronger social licence to operate.
  • Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. So, if part of a mining strategy is, for example, to reduce violence towards women in the community, a strategy should consider how empowering women economically will provide them a stronger share of voice and respect within that community.

The opportunity for the extractives sector to drive inclusive growth for smallholder farmers is particularly strong given that they typically operate close to rural and remote subsistence farming communities.  Smallholder farmers make up to three-quarters of the world’s poor with 70 percent of these farmers being women. The creation of sustainable income earning opportunities through agriculture is perhaps the most meaningful way to reduce poverty, tackle the empowerment of women and enhance food stability.

One way to develop an inclusive business with a gender lens, is to look at the value chain and women’s roles. Women typically play significant roles in production and post-harvest processing that are often key determinants of the size and quality of the final commodities produced. These roles are often informal, unacknowledged, or under-resourced. It is here, that potentially, as part of a livelihood strategy, a community development program that seeks to empower women, could have its greatest impact.


Extractive companies play a significant role in initiating the development of inclusive business by aggregating farmer groups; assisting farmers with access to credit; training, tools, inputs; and facilitating direct market connections with buyers.  Consulting primarily with men provides only half the story. It is important to consider active intervention to identify issues that are important to women and developing strategies that empower those women.