A program directed by Elon School of Communications 2002 graduate Audrey Seagraves has received a prestigious international technology award. The online "Fair Wage Guide," managed by Seagraves, is a tool to assist millions of workers in the developing world who live below the poverty level.
Seagraves is Director of Programs for World of Good Development Organization (http://www.worldofgood.org), a non-profit organization focused on improving economic and social conditions for women and adolescent girls in the developing world who live on less than $2/day. World of Good DO developed a Web site (http://www.fairtradecalculator.com) – a free, online calculator to estimate the fair localized value of handmade goods produced by workers, providing an ethical method for comparing wages worldwide.
In recognition of its work, World of Good Development Organization is one of 15 Tech Award Laureates for 2009, an award that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. Panels of judges selected the laureates from about 600 nominations in five categories. The awards will be given at a gala event in San Jose, Calif., Nov. 19. Former Vice President Al Gore will also be honored at the event as a Global Humanitarian. The World of Good DO project will compete in the Equality category for a $50,000 prize, which will also be announced at the gala.
Seagraves joined World of Good in January 2006 and manages The Fair Wage Guide along with the micro-grants program, economic development fellows and the Living Wage Project. She also serves as chair of the World Fair Trade Organization’s Monitoring and Standards Committee.
“It’s surprising and thrilling to receive such an honor,” Seagraves said. “I have been managing the Fair Wage Guide project since its inception. While there have been challenges and bumps along the way, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a meaningful and rewarding project.”
Seagraves previously worked as the public relations and promotions coordinator for Foreign Policy magazine (FP). She was also a recipient of the Future Leaders of the World Fellowship from the Population Institute, where she was responsible for building a public relations campaign around the Educate America and World Population Awareness Week programs. In 2002, she participated in the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the director of the Hometown News Service. A native of Atlanta, Seagraves graduated with honors from Elon as a double major in journalism and communications and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Lambda Pi Eta academic honor societies. She was involved in undergraduate research projects including the Open Access Debate and a Survey of American Travel Writers. She also helped the women’s soccer team clinch the Big South Conference title in 1999 and was named a National All-Collegiate Scholar.
The Fair Wage Guide was launched in 2005 and has already achieved significant success in raising awareness about the needs of homeworkers around the world. More than 700 international businesses have used the software to increase wages for more than 50,000 low-income homeworkers in 60 developing nations by an average of 20 percent.
As one example, the artisans of Malindi Handicrafts of Kenya have used the Fair Wage Guide for the past two years to ensure that their 1,560 carvers are charging enough for their products to cover a fair wage.
Informal homeworkers are the most disadvantaged workers in global supply chains, with the highest concentration in the garment sector. Informal homeworkers earning poverty-level wages now make up 30 to 60 percent of the workforce in the clothing, textile and footwear industries, which often eliminate factory jobs in favor of homeworkers, where there is little enforcement of minimum wage standards or labor laws. Because of their relative isolation, women working from their homes in small villages do not know their legal rights and have no way to negotiate for higher pay.
”The Fair Wage Guide is helping women value their time in terms of wages and educating them on their legal rights,” Seagraves said. “During our case studies, we found that many homeworkers don’t even charge enough to cover their material costs, let alone labor costs. Due to lack of information, the women are typically earning well below their legal minimum wage and often are losing money. The Fair Wage Guide is helping to level the playing field for these workers by empowering them with information to negotiate for higher wages.”
The Tech Awards were created in 2000 by The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose, Calif., and are sponsored by major corporations and organizations. Partners include Applied Materials, Inc.; the United Nations Secretary-General’s Office and the UN Development Programme; the World Bank Institute; and several other organizations. Corporate sponsors include Intel, BD, Microsoft, The Swanson Foundation, Nokia and others.