Although not quite as big as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter and Halloween, I suspect many confectioners do see an uptick in sales as a result of Mother’s Day celebrations. In looking back at the various ways my family and I have celebrated Mother’s Day, I can attest that we’ve probably run the gauntlet with gifts and ways to celebrate.

Yes, we’ve done the overcrowded brunches, the “we’ll prepare everything” barbecues, the new lawn chair furniture, the planting of rose bushes, the botanic garden visits, kids’ performances, and the list goes on. As my mother turned older, low-key proved to be the easiest and most enjoyable way to celebrate mom.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on our two news stories today regarding gender equality in areas that affect all confectioners, the cocoa-growing areas of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. And while Ghana fares better than the Ivory Coast in recognizing women as equal partners, it’s still a man’s world, regardless whether it’s cocoa farming or running a business.

Just take a look at the most recent third-party assessments on the status of women in cocoa communities completed by Michael Hiscox and Rebecca Goldstein of Harvard University for Ghana, and by CARE International for Cote d'Ivoire.  The news isn’t pretty.

In Ghana, the Hiscox and Goldstein study indicates dramatic gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity: women have a 25 percent lower level of training, a 20 percent lower receipt of loans, and 30-40 percent lower access to critical farm inputs such as fertilizer. 

In Cote d'Ivoire, CARE International’s research found that of the 4 percent of women in cocoa co-ops, almost none are in leadership positions. On land ownership, the study found that 86 percent of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67 percent of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them.  

As a result, Mondelez International is fine-tuning its $400-million, 10-year Cocoa Life sustainability program to ensure it addresses these gender equality issues. The Hershey Co. also recognizes the impact women have not only in family rearing, but in running a cocoa farming business. Hence, as part of its Hershey Learn to Grow Phase II initiative, the company seeks “to maintain a high participation rate for women farmers with a goal of 33 percent women registered farmers, a level of gender balance that was achieved in Phase I and confirmed in the program’s yearend 2013 progress report.”

A quick scan of gender equality challenges in cocoa farming areas turned up an Oxfam report, which was issued last year and provided a comprehensive overview of the problem. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, female small-scale farmers in Africa own just 1 percent of agriculture land and receive only 7 percent of extension services. Less than 10 percent of agricultural credit is offered to women.

Not only does the Oxfam briefing provide stats and details, it also outlines a plan of action, specifically addressing the larger players in the chocolate industry.

Given the Mondelez International and Hershey Co. releases, it’s good to see movement by the multinationals on gender equality. But I’m thinking we can all perhaps do a bit more on a micro scale this coming Mother’s Day in helping women working the cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, wherever cocoa is grown.

The first step is identifying the problem and finding out how as a company, organization, an individual one can do to accelerate the women’s rights movement forward, be it through increasing awareness, establishing connections and/or partnerships, even fundraising.

Again, it’s something many of us don’t think about, but I’m convinced it’s a critical component to ensuring cocoa sustainability. So this Mother’s Day, in addition to recognizing all of our wonderful moms for what they have done and continue to do, let’s also appreciate and help the moms that have helped grown and harvested the cocoa beans that allow us to enjoy chocolate.