Global value chains (GVCs) offer important opportunities for women worldwide to earn a living – garments, tourism, mobile phones and commercial horticulture are good examples. Women can play a vital role in supporting value chain upgrading – as workers, farmers, producers and consumers. Yet women’s skills are often undervalued and they are stuck in low-status jobs. Work in GVCs is potentially empowering for women. Policy and commercial strategies need to proactively support the more equitable participation of women, because this enhances value chain upgrading, improves women’s lives and promotes more inclusive development.