GAP Inc Keeps Up the PACE.

Everybody knows that when you empower a woman, we all win.

Women make up the vast majority of garment workers, about 80% worldwide. A few years ago when Gap reviewed its community investment strategy, the company saw an opportunity to help improve the lives of female garment workers.

The company recognized that while the vendors’ factory floor workers were overwhelmingly female, few women advanced into supervisory or management positions and they decided it was time for a shift.

Since 2007, more than 14,000 female garment workers have participated in Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program (the initials stand for Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement), which provides them with the foundational life and technical skills needed to move up in the workplace and better their own lives and the lives of those around them at home and in their communities.

The women start off learning broad-based life skills; the first part of the program offers 65-80 hours of instruction which includes communication, problem-solving and decision-making, time and stress management, general and reproductive health, legal and financial literacy and gender equality. After that, the women to receive enhanced technical training. Using a combination of paid time off, and their own time, the women generally complete the entire program in eight to 10 months.

The results are  amazing.

Factory owners have reaped rewards too. P.A.C.E. graduates are more productive, have lower rates of absenteeism, and are promoted faster than their coworkers who do not participate in the program. At one factory, women who completed the program were promoted nearly five times as often as their fellow workers. One vendor in India, which employs more than 60,000 workers, has promised to extend the program to all its factories and employees by 2020.

P.A.C.E. won an innovation award from ICRW for its pioneering business model.

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