How impactful are the initiatives taken by organizations to empower women employee? An American multinational clothing and accessories retailer working across global locations initiated a Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement program to positively impact female garment workers. It seeked to provide foundational skills and support that will help these women through life skills education and technical training, advance in the workplace and in their personal lives. Did it have the desired impact?
Globally the garment industry is one of the largest employers of low-skilled female workers. Despite their large numbers in the workforce, relatively few female line workers advance to positions of supervisors and managers, as they have few opportunities to enhance their managerial and life skills that would enable their professional and personal growth.
In response to this need, a top Garment Brand initiated the Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement – life learning program. Research, design and development began in late 2005 and a pilot program was launched in 2007. The program has since expanded to Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. An innovative factory-based program, the main focus is to positively impact female garment workers (FGWs) by providing them with foundational skills and support that will help them advance in the workplace and in their personal lives, through life skills education and technical training.
The P.A.C.E. curriculum covers a variety of topics related to life skills that are crucial to the growth and development of the FGW. Each module is designed to enhance specific competencies and to help participants understand concepts in a holistic way. Currently the program covers up to 8 modules of learning: (1) Communication; (2) Problem Solving and Decision Making; (3) Time and Stress Management; (4) Water, Sanitation & Hygiene; (5) Execution Excellence; (6) General and Reproductive Health; (7) Financial Literacy; and (8) Legal Literacy and Social Entitlements.
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), headquartered in Washington, D.C., conducted evaluations across multiple geographies to determine whether the program is achieving the desired outcomes and impacts (both social and business).
The P.A.C.E. program is unique in that it is a women’s advancement program that is delivered in the workplace. While the program seeks to create a change in women’s personal lives (Personal Advancement), it also seeks to positively influence their work lives (Career Enhancement). Thus, the evaluation carves out social and business outcome indicators as defined below.
The social impact looks at two key outcomes:
– Self-efficacy: A person’s belief in her ability to produce the desired results through her own actions.
– Self-esteem: Awareness of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life, and feeling worthy of happiness.
The business impact looks at the following outcomes:
– Work efficacy: Ability to demonstrate aptitude, take initiative, and meet work-related deadlines resulting in increased productivity and improved quality of products.
– Influence on the workplace: Deeper understanding and improved professional relationship with co-workers, and ability to communicate problems effectively as well as garner support for oneself and one’s peers.
The short-term outcomes of the program, such as higher self and work efficacy, improved communication, a better, more collegial workplace environment, higher self-esteem, improved knowledge of health, and improved financial efficacy, have been evaluated in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.