International Women’s Coffee Alliance : Strong Women Equals Strong Coffee

Lucy Pilgrim
Lucy Pilgrim - Deputy Head of Editorial
At A Glance
  • The International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA) unites countries and supports the work and contributions of female communities in the global coffee network.
  • IWCA aims to cement its position as a united voice for women in coffee across international platforms, advocating for their issues and the role they play in the industry.

Shining a light on the importance of female advocacy and supporting their growth in the global coffee network, we take a look at the critical impact of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.


A humble morning coffee has become a ritual to live by for millions across the globe, as it is celebrated as the beverage of choice for many. 

Yet, with each steaming cup consumed, little thought goes into the process behind the beloved drink, let alone the communities and individuals that make up a key part of the global coffee industry. 

One demographic acutely affected is women, who face major challenges in the coffee value chain, including underrepresentation and stifled opportunities for growth. 

One non-profit organization that champions the work of women is the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), which unites countries and supports the work and contributions of female communities in the global coffee network. 

Having an international influence on the industry, IWCA empowers women through leadership development, strategic partnerships, and amplified market visibility, alongside many other initiatives. 

The alliance was founded in 2003 on the idea of connecting and championing women across three separate nations. A small collective of women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the US were united through their shared conviction of improving all components of the global coffee industry. 

This important vision materialized when the alliance’s co-Founders, Karen Cebreros, Colleen Crosby, Kimberly Easson, Karen Gordon, Melissa Pugash, and Margaret Swallow met at the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) headquarters in Long Beach, California. 

Together, they created IWCA, and their important message spread far and wide as the founding mission inspired thousands of groups across the world. 

Today, this powerful collective champions women to lead themselves and their communities to have a greater voice in the coffee production sector, whilst also highlighting to consumers how important it is to support producers.

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IWCA supports women across the world through education and advocacy to ensure an equitable coffee industry. 

In order to do this efficiently and with the most impact, the alliance is made up of an extensive collection of independent and self-governed organizations, known as Chapters. Each Chapter implements strategies and priorities according to their nation’s needs, so that each country aligns with the alliance’s wider mission whilst also meeting geographically specific demands. 

In order to ensure a streamlined global organization, IWCA implemented a code of conduct for Chapters to follow in 2018. The code sets out the expectations for each member, volunteer, supporter, and partner, ensuring that women in each community achieve meaningful and sustainable lives. 

The US Women in Coffee Association (USWIC), the US Chapter of IWCA, offers a moderated panel discussion by women, for women in coffee, as a proactive colloquium. 

Founded in 2019, the association is committed to supporting female coffee professionals through local and regional engagement across North and Central America.  

Educating and supporting women throughout the coffee supply chain ensures that the industry is building a more sustainable platform throughout the world’s coffee market. 

Elsewhere, the Honduras Chapter of the IWCA, known as the Alliance of Women in Coffee in Honduras (AMUCAFE), was established in 2013 and has grown to over 350 members, comprising coffee producers, cuppers, baristas, traders, marketers, cafe owners, and more. 

In 2018, AMUCAFE partnered with Rainforest Alliance to provide women across the supply chain with training focused on capacity building and financial stability.  

The initiative saw over 200 women being trained in a multitude of workshops, such as barista upskilling, cupping, marketing, farm certifications, monetary literacy, and much more.  

This incredible project facilitated even greater partnerships with local and international charities, providing support for women in technical agriculture skills, climate change adaption, income diversification, alongside others.  

Additionally, the creation of the association and the fantastic work that followed led to AMUCAFE’s leadership being represented at both national and international fairs, causing the greater spread of possibilities for women in coffee.


IWCA proactively works towards four pillars of progress to achieve optimal impact, which is a key component of the organization’s strategic plan.  

Firstly, IWCA is prioritizing its organizational development to ensure it can provide the best possible programs for its members. This will only be achieved by strengthening the alliance’s human resource capacity to implement these programs.  

Moreover, the establishment of an endowment fund will guarantee the stability of financial resources and allow for the sustainable operations of the organization through an annual distribution of income.  

Secondly, IWCA is focusing on the efficient communication of its message, which is vital to attracting and engaging donors, partners, and other stakeholders. This will also solidify its brand identity going forward.  

Furthermore, through the formation of Chapters, IWCA is able to achieve its vision and mission. This will also strengthen the alliance’s ability to provide impactful programs and sustainable financial resources.  

Finally, IWCA wishes to cement its position as a united voice for women in coffee across international platforms, advocating for their issues and the role they play in the industry. Greater R&D efforts will also help develop and inform the organization’s support.   

With a steadfast strategy of advocacy in place, IWCA, and its comprising Chapters, have the power to change the trajectory of women in the coffee industry and champion the vital work of female-led communities across the world.

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By Lucy Pilgrim Deputy Head of Editorial
Lucy Pilgrim is an in-house writer for Food & Beverage Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.