We focus on providing opportunity to women in the developing world because their advancement plays a key role in reducing poverty and helping families and communities build better futures. Through our company assets and relationships, we are working to facilitate this advancement and help women create change for themselves, the garment industry and beyond.
Research shows education and economic empowerment for women advances communities. Recent studies indicate that in many parts of the world infant and child mortality drops and family health improves as women become more educated. Educated women are also more politically active; they are more informed about their rights and how to exercise them. Additionally, women who earn an income spend more on their families; a child’s probability of survival is increased by 20 percent when a mother controls household income.
But women do not always have opportunities to become educated and advance in the workplace. In India, for example, only 33 percent of women are “economically active,” compared to 81 percent of males. Perhaps even more significant, even if a woman does get a job, she is less likely to move into a higher-earning management position. In some areas, since technology is viewed as the purview of men, women lack the opportunity to gain the technical skills needed to advance to upper level roles.
We are well-positioned to address some of these challenges and help women fulfill their potential. Our business connects us with women garment workers who can benefit from opportunities to advance in the workplace and in life. We leverage our company assets, including our relationships with garment manufacturers and local staff in developing countries who understand the social and cultural contexts impacting women workers.
While many social programs focus on helping women in the developing world find a job, far fewer focus on their advancement once they are in a job. In garment factories, in which the global workforce is 80 percent female, women often lack the education or leadership skills to move into roles with greater responsibility, such as managerial positions. Often it is not only the workplace skills that hold them back from progressing, but also the confidence or belief in themselves that will allow them to achieve their goals.
“We believe that women in the developing world, when provided access to education, training and support, can be real agents of change – for their families, their communities and ultimately for society as a whole,” says Dotti Hatcher, Executive Director of Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. Global Iniatiatives.
Drawing on our resources as a company, we worked in partnership with leading nonprofits to create P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement).
In 2007, we launched the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) program, aimed at training female garment workers in technical and social skills so they can advance in work and life. Designed in partnership with Swasti Health Resource Center and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the program currently operates in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. 17,000 women have participated in P.A.C.E. training, and in our pioneer factory, women who completed P.A.C.E. were promoted at 4.7 times the rate of other female workers at the same factory. Read more >>
Our investment in the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program demonstrates the “virtuous cycle” in action: not only do women gain new opportunities, but vendors also see the rewards of this program, as a better-trained workforce has a positive impact on their businesses. “The transformative impact of the program on the lives of female garment workers has become clear from their confidence, willingness to shoulder greater responsibility and take on leadership roles, and their mentoring of peers,” says Mr. Harish Ahuja, Chairman of Shahi, a large vendor partner in India. “P.A.C.E. has brought marked improvements in many areas of our business. Abseenteeism is down, workplace efficiency is up, and we have lower attrition. Our long-term vision is to extend this program to all of our 34 plants and 60,000 workers.”
We are encouraged that the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program has been recognized for making a difference. In 2010, it won the Financial Times/Justmeans Social Innovation Award, and in 2011, the International Center for Research on Women’s Champion of Change Innovation Award, and the program also has been recognized for its achievements by the Clinton Global Initiative. Our goal is to support broad, industry-wide change by inspiring others to join us in this work. We are developing a toolkit that will allow for replication of the program in other geographic locations.
 International Center for Research on Women. (2011). Women and Girls: A look at the international landscape. Washington, D.C.
 Ibid, and Population Reference Bureau. (2011). The world’s women and girls 2011 data sheet. Washington, D.C.