The women are their own bosses, hire other women and ran their own businesses. Yes there are still some struggles but majority of women in the shea butter business are in charge. For example many US companies buy directly from shea butter businesses in West Africa so there is no middle man and the women capture more of the butter's value. In addition some businesses prefer quality to quantity so they go straight to the source in Africa to buy shea butter.
Contrary to popular belief, not all shea butter is produced by extremely poor people in devastating areas in Africa as portrayed by several pictures on the net. There are several businesses in major cities in Africa that produce shea butter. There is a lot of buzz online about Fair Trade. Fair Trade is an issue that exists even here in our own society in the USA. So keep it simple!
Take flour for example. There are a gazillion grades & levels of flour. You may prefer whole wheat flour or bleached flour or bread flour. It is all flour but the end result in your recipe will be different. It is the same with several products on the market. For example Cocoa Butter. Cocoa Butter is used for all kinds of things and there are many grades and levels very similar to Shea Butter. But we all purchase what we prefer. Including the various types of chocolate they are used in. So it all comes down to preference.
So when these people are talking about West & East Shea Butter, what country are they referring to? Sooner or later, they will start saying Central African Shea Butter is better. Oh don't forget Southern Africa and South Western Africa. This could go on for days. And if you have noticed, the East African Shea Butter is triple the price of West African Shea Butter. Hummm!