Gap Inc.'s Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) program – in which the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a partner – was recognized today by former President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York as an exemplary approach to economically advancing women worldwide.
"If you want democracies to prove they can produce widespread prosperity...we have got to prove that growth can benefit everybody," Clinton said after Gap Inc. Board Member Bob Fisher presented an update on the P.A.C.E. program. "And it cannot happen unless we do more to make sure women get their fair share of it and that girls can work their way into it. That's why I really wanted this progress report today."
Gap Inc. launched P.A.C.E. in 2007 to provide female garment workers in developing countries life skills education and technical training to help them progress beyond entry-level positions. ICRW collaborated with Gap Inc. to design and evaluate initial efforts in garment factories in India and Cambodia. Today, P.A.C.E. operates in those countries as well as in Vietnam, Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka – and ICRW continues to evaluate the program's impact globally under the leadership of Priya Nanda, group director of social and economic development at ICRW's Asia Regional Office.
Eighty percent of garment workers worldwide are women. Despite their presence in the workforce, few women advance to management positions or have the chance to build skills they need to grow professionally. P.A.C.E. attempts to change their path. To date, more than 7,500 female garment workers have participated in the program. And ICRW's research shows that the program has helped strengthen women's confidence, improve their communication skills in the workplace and encouraged them to save money regularly.
Through P.A.C.E., others – the women's families, their bosses and co-workers – also have benefited. This is key, according to Bobbi Silten, senior vice president of Gap Inc. Global Responsibility and president of Gap Foundation. Earlier this year at ICRW's first Passports to Progress discussion event, Silten stressed that it's important to the company that its investment not only advance women, but benefit their children and communities, too.
"We really believe that's the way to create sustainable programs," she said. "When everybody gets something, they keep doing it."
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Gillian Gaynair is ICRW's senior writer and editor.