P.A.C.E. - Empowering Women

The women of P.A.C.E. each have a story

Group of women

Launched in 2007, our innovative Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) program was initially created to support women in the global apparel industry, and we have since expanded the program to community settings and more countries to unlock new possibilities for women and adolescent girls around the world. Our goal is to reach 1 million women and girls through supply chain vendor and community partnerships by 2022.

Gap Inc. believes that all women deserve to reach their full potential and to find and use their voices.

Although women represent the majority of the apparel industry's workforce, relatively few have the opportunity to advance to management positions, and many lack access to the education and skills training they need to support their personal and professional growth. We developed P.A.C.E. to give these women the foundational life skills, technical training and support that will help them advance in the workplace and in their personal lives, as documented in the program’s evaluation results

We began delivering P.A.C.E. in our vendors’ facilities in 2007, and expanded the program to community settings in 2013. In 2016, we expanded the P.A.C.E. programming to include adolescent girls in two age groups (11-13 and 14-17) as a result of the vision that P.A.C.E. graduates had seen for their own daughters to possess better life skills, to be bolder, braver and able to negotiate their problems more effectively. 


  • P.A.C.E. unlocks opportunities for the women and girls who work in the global apparel value chain and live in surrounding communities.
  • Over 800,000 women and girls in 17 countries have participated in the program as of early 2021.
  • Participant evaluations document higher self-esteem and productivity, as well as increases in their communication, execution and financial literacy skills.
  • We are expanding P.A.C.E. through strategic partnerships, including with other brands, as well as a partnership with USAID focused on women and water, and a new multistakeholder initiative, Empower@Work, that has the potential to reach millions of women in global supply chains.

Program Expansion

In recent years, we have invested in an expansion strategy that is helping us grow P.A.C.E. through innovative collaborations that include strategic partnerships with local governments and other brands, as well as a new multi-stakeholder initiative. This effort aims to unlock the reach of leading women’s empowerment programs that have collectively engaged more than 4.5 million workers in global supply chains. We have also invested in open-source tools and measurement and evaluation frameworks that will continue to ensure sustainability in quality and affordability even as P.A.C.E. grows. And we are beginning to see the fruits of our investments in adolescent girl’s curriculum, as some of these girls transitioned into the women’s program, demonstrating the impact of P.A.C.E. over their life course.

In 2019, we extended the reach of P.A.C.E. in three ways:

Gap Inc. partnered with BSR’s HERproject, ILO Better Work, CARE, ICRW and Walmart to launch Empower@Work, a collaborative effort dedicated to empowering women and advancing gender equity in global supply chains through the sharing of knowledge, skills and networks. By harnessing the power of our collective reach and pooling our knowledge and resources, we aim to support economic independence and a better future for the more than 80 million women working in the apparel industry worldwide. The approach is built on three pillars: Act to encourage and share best practices in worker training, innovate by sharing successes and failures to develop new best practices, and advocate by amplifying our collective voice for policy-level change. Empower@Work released an open-source worker training toolkit for women’s empowerment that includes our P.A.C.E. women’s curriculum, as well as expertise and training from the other partners.

We are also using the open-source concept to scale P.A.C.E. through collaboration with other brands. We are offering no-fee license agreements for the use of P.A.C.E. curriculum and training methodologies to our brand partners, including Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Avery Dennison, Hasbro, New Balance, PVH Corp., and the Chinese food and beverage company, Want Want Group.

Lastly, we are extending the program’s reach by partnering with governments to deliver P.A.C.E. in new settings where it can have increased impact for women: 

  • Through a collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that we began in Jordan in 2018 and expanded to Turkey in 2019, P.A.C.E. curriculum is now benefiting people who have been forcibly displaced in refugee settlements. 

  • In Bangladesh, Gap Inc. and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed an agreement to implement P.A.C.E. curriculum modules for migrant workers and in refugee sites. 

  • In Cambodia, we licensed our curriculum to Kampuchea Action to Promote Education (KAPE), which will reach 100,000 girls in the next couple of years.

  • In India, we launched a pilot with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) that will standardize the P.A.C.E. life-skills curriculum across MoRD’s implementing partners around the country under a social and economic program focused on rural youth.  

  • In Indonesia, our program partner, CARE Indonesia, received a government award for successfully integrating and rolling out the P.A.C.E. adolescent girl’s curriculum into a school district that reaches more than 5,000 girls.

To help ensure quality and sustainability at scale, we have launched an online learning platform that has supported the training and certification of 3,000 P.A.C.E. trainers. This platform allows partners to manage their own trainer base, while maintaining P.A.C.E. program quality through a standardized curriculum. In 2019, we funded the development of community and workplace measurement and evaluation frameworks by ICRW to demonstrate the impact of P.A.C.E. in a systematic and credible way. These frameworks will enable our community partners and vendors to better access and use data and analysis to improve and validate the social and business impact of P.A.C.E. programs.

We plan to build on these successes and lessons learned by continuing the use of open-source, no-fee license partnerships, increasing opportunities to demonstrate impact through qualitative and quantitative assessment tools, and embedding P.A.C.E. programming into our Supplier Sustainability team in factory settings. This positions the program as a business priority that contributes to supply-chain capability building, efficiencies and enhancements. 

In 2019, we raised more than $200,000 for CARE through a campaign for International Women’s Day led by our Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta brands, and as we expand the P.A.C.E. program, we plan to continue exploring new ways to engage our employees and others.

Meet Sujatha, a P.A.C.E. Graduate

Documenting our Impact

As we evaluate our programs, we have reflected on several key ingredients that make P.A.C.E. a success: our strong partnerships both internally and externally, our relationship with our key vendor partners and our focus on the needs women of today. Since the lives of women have changed since we launched P.A.C.E., we continue to evaluate our curriculum to ensure that it remains relevant in our rapidly changing world.

Over the years, P.A.C.E. has evolved from teams that focused on specific local management to a global program that can better share lessons across geographies. This helps us develop approaches to contextualize the content to fit local priorities, while building out resources for a global scale. We are developing a framework for a new community of practice that will coordinate and build consistency in our systems and make it easier for P.A.C.E. teams as well as our implementing partners globally to share tools, knowledge and resources such as master trainers.

By engaging with our supply chain vendors, we can support their business and ours. These suppliers report benefits in the form of improved workforce productivity and performance and greater retention of workers. P.A.C.E. strengthens our relationship with our suppliers and enhances their performance, and it also deepens the sense of meaning and purpose among our employees.

Evaluations of participants have documented our impact: Women who participate in P.A.C.E. report increased knowledge, skills and productivity, as well as higher self-esteem and confidence, as documented in the program’s evaluation results. They describe becoming better at communicating, managing their finances, taking care of their health and planning for the future. P.A.C.E. has also helped enhance women’s relationships at work, at home and in their communities. 

Women who participate in P.A.C.E. report increased knowledge, skills and productivity, as well as higher self-esteem and confidence.

Gap Inc. and USAID Women + Water Global Development Alliance

In many garment-producing countries, some of women’s most significant challenges relate to water. Women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to household responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning, which require water. According to UNICEF, women and girls globally spend more than 200 million hours collecting water each day—time that could be spent earning additional income, caring for their families or getting an education. Moreover, women, along with their families, face serious health risks due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, and poor understanding of healthy hygiene practices. 

In an additional effort to address these water challenges and strengthen women’s lives, we have integrated a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) curriculum into our P.A.C.E. program. The P.A.C.E. WASH curriculum is part of our core P.A.C.E. curriculum and is key to our larger water strategy, which seeks to address water issues through the lens of people and human rights.

In 2017, we announced a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that is expanding this program even further. Gap Inc. and USAID’s five-year Women + Water Global Development Alliance (W+W Alliance) aims to advance the health and well-being of women, families and communities touched by the apparel industry. 

Over the course of this five-year program, Gap Inc. is serving as the co-funder and primary program manager. The W+W Alliance operates in two Indian states critical to the apparel industry — Maharashtra, a key cotton-growing state, and Madhya Pradesh, a textile industry hub. Four implementing partners — CARE, Water.org, Institute for Sustainability Communities (ISC) and WaterAid — are helping the program work toward two objectives, where women’s self-efficacy and agency plays a critical role to:

1. Encourage communities to adopt key WASH practices

2. Build access to and sustainably manage quality water resources and sanitation services

This pioneering public-private partnership aligns closely to our goals related to sustainable water stewardship and empowering women with WASH education, services and products. The program is primarily being implemented in communities where cotton is grown and where fabric mills are located. Through rigorous monitoring and evaluation, we are deepening our understanding of the WASH needs of women and girls in communities while improving our ability to deliver programs that support their well-being. To catalyze progress, we are also learning and sharing best practices for WASH and water stewardship across the apparel industry and beyond.

Group of women

We began offering P.A.C.E. in community settings in 2013 to support women outside the factory environment. We are now enhancing our approach even further to reach one million women throughout the world by end of 2022.

Alliance partners—including Water.org, CARE India, Institute for Sustainable Communities, ICRW and the Institute for Development Impact (I4DI)— draw on their complementary strengths to improve health and well-being in countries of shared interest, starting in India. 

To maximize the impact of these efforts, the W+W Alliance is applying a three-part approach based on:

  • Gender sensitivity: While we will engage both men and women, we recognize the pivotal role that women play in society and their unique needs and opportunities. 
  • Systems thinking: We understand that a variety of interdependent factors can determine the behaviors of individuals, and we recognize that changes at the individual, organizational, community and systems levels are often needed to sustainably improve the lives of women, their families and their communities.
  • Flexibility: The program will allow us to learn while doing, and we will adjust as the program evolves.


Related Stories

Denim Stacked Up

Supply Chain Working Conditions

A commitment to safety, fairness, dignity and respect.
Learn More

Supplier Partnerships

Improving working conditions to benefit people and our business. 
Learn More

Our Sustainability Strategy

Making business more sustainable—within our own company and across our industry.
Learn More


Investing in People

Creating opportunities.
Learn More

Employee Engagement

Investing in others – and ourselves.
Learn more