Ivanka Trump Is Visiting India To Support Women's Entrepreneurship & Here's Why It's So Ironic
Next week, the Indian city of Hyderabad will host the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a joint endeavor by the United States and India. The summit's theme this year is "Women First and Prosperity for All" and Ivanka Trump will deliver the keynote address as well as sit on several panels during the event. However, Ivanka's prominent role at the India summit is controversial, given her company's allegedly questionable role in employing female garment workers in India. The company, however, has claimed that it only does business with "licensees who maintain internationally recognized labor standards," according to The Washington Post.
Ivanka was invited to attend the summit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in June. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that the theme of the summit aligns with Ivanka's professional portfolio that focuses on women's entrepreneurship, saying, " she [Ivanka] has been a champion of women’s economic empowerment not just in words but in action."
Ivanka herself also emphasized the Donald Trump administration's supposed efforts to encourage female entrepreneurship during a call with reporters on Tuesday. During the call, she said that the summit will help highlight “the administration’s commitment to the principle that when women are economically empowered, their communities and countries thrive.”
However, according to aPost article published on Sunday, some have questioned whether Ivanka should serve as a champion of women's empowerment in India when her fashion company (which she still owns but does not run) refuses to be transparent about its labor practices in the country and beyond.
As the Post reported, in an earlier investigation conducted this summer, the paper found that Ivanka's company solely utilizes foreign workers to produce its goods — and it traced production to India as well as to several other countries in Asia. However, the outlet was unable to identify exactly which factories in India produced garments for Ivanka's company.
The Post also noted that human rights advocacy groups have been pushing her company to reveal its supply chains and ensure that fair labor standards are practiced at its overseas garment factories. However, thus far, the organization has not yet revealed the factories where its clothing is made or unveiled a plan to ensure that workers' rights are protected.
Back in July, the company did tell the Post that it was planning to tour overseas garment factories and was considering hiring an independent oversight group to ensure that fair labor standards are met. However, when the paper followed up with the company over the weekend to see if these commitments had been met, it declined to comment. Though, the company did assert that it “is committed to only working with licensees who maintain internationally recognized labor standards across their supply chains.”
Women dominate the garment industry in India, comprising 60 percent of its employees. Unfortunately, women who do work in the industry often face harsh conditions, making paltry wages as well as facing abuse and harassment. As a result, Ivanka's organization, as well as other companies, have increasingly faced pressure to commit to and demonstrate that the factories in which their products are made adhere to fair labor standards.
Ivanka's company and its supply chain are also not the only controversial issues surrounding her upcoming trip. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now reportedly refusing to send a high-level State Department delegation to accompany the first daughter to the summit.
While India's government is awaiting Ivanka's arrival for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, it certainly does not come without complications. Many will be eagerly observing Ivanka to see how she navigates the complex issues associated with her role at the summit — and to see whether she addresses any of these issues head on.