How the Women’s Bean Project offers women self-sufficiency

Giving By Emily Larson March 5, 2019

The gender gap in the global workforce is substantial, with 49% of women participating globally versus 75% of men. Women still see many barriers to gaining meaningful employment despite the fact that reducing gender gaps could substantially boost global GDP. Barriers including traditional gender role stereotyping and lower education levels continue to hold women back from achieving their goals

To help overcome this challenge, the Western Union Foundation collaborated with the Women’s Bean Project, a nonprofit in the Foundation’s hometown of Denver.  The Women’s Bean Project’s goal is to change women’s lives by enabling them to be self-sufficient through social enterprise. They teach women how to create products that are sold in nearly 1,000 stores across the United States. Their program has 100% job placement for graduates, and 93% of the women are still employed one year after graduating the program. To continue celebrating the women that the Foundation supports, we asked Tamra Ryan, CEO of Women’s Bean Project, how she’s addressing issues in her space.

What is a problem you see that is still to be solved in your space?

One challenge that I believe is unique to women is that they often lack confidence and self-efficacy to make lasting changes in their lives. As a result, they often self-sabotage or otherwise get in their own way when they are trying to change their lives. Much of this has to do with the fact that they don’t feel hopeful or particularly empowered to affect change for themselves. While this isn’t a new problem, there is a new brain science research that is helping us understand this challenge better and develop new strategies for addressing these challenges. We are taking this research into consideration as we move toward a coaching model to help our women make change, while also measuring changes in their hope, self-sufficiency and self-esteem while they are in our program.


What is the role of technology in your space to solve social problems?

At Women’s Bean Project we are in the midst of introducing machinery to improve the efficiency of our food production lines and teach more relevant and transferable skills to our program participants. Technology has also been instrumental in helping us expand our sales, and since sales create jobs, our ability to deliver better on our mission is directly impacted by our ability to increase sales.


We are always working to gain more knowledge, so tell us, what podcast are you listening to right now? And what book are you reading?

I have been listening to the podcast How I Built This. I like the conversations with entrepreneurs about their challenges and successes. I’m currently reading Jean Cases’s book Be Fearless.


For more insight to trends affecting women, read from our nonprofit partner Re:Coded here