How Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program is improving women’s lives

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Globally, the garment industry is one of the largest employers of low-skilled women workers. In India, many of these women come from disadvantaged, rural communities, where given the resource constraints and taboos around women’s mobility and sexuality, their families more often than not choose early marriage over an education (which their brothers are afforded) for them. As young adults, undereducated and solely responsible for household chores and caring for the family, they are afforded very few opportunities outside the home. For many women, jobs in garment factories are usually their first formal employment opportunities. Therefore, they lack the confidence to advocate for themselves, and face challenges managing their time juggling responsibilities at home and at the factory.

Recognizing the opportunity the company had to help improve the lives of female workers, Gap Inc. initiated the P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) workplace education program designed to teach women interpersonal organizational and other life skills needed to excel in work and in their personal lives.

Since 2007, in collaboration with its strategic partners – the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Swasti Health Resource Centre and CARE –  Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. has impacted the lives of more than 28,000 women across India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The P.A.C.E. program helps women workers acquire the communication, time management and decision making skills, as well as the confidence and knowledge, they need to improve their lives at work and at home. Importantly, the program also teaches them how to set and achieve goals and gives them the skills to advancet in the work place.

ICRW has evaluated the P.A.C.E. program to determine if, and how, the program benefits these female garment workers. In short, ICRW found that P.A.C.E. has significantly improved the lives of women and their families. We found that women who participated in the P.A.C.E. program were not only more confident, but subsequently better positioned to tackle challenges – at home and at work – head on.

ICRW’s research shows that across all program sites evaluated the number of P.A.C.E. participants that reported a higher level of self-esteem increased by almost 50 percent, which led to an increased confidence among women in dealing with work and family situations. Program participants also thought more about the future and developed a heightened recognition of their own worth. This newfound sense of self-worth encourages participants to have aspirations, both in their personal and work lives, and to have hopes for the future. Further, it encouraged women to not only work more conscientiously and efficiently, but also enabled them to effectively communicate their concerns with their supervisors and managers, and successfully seek help when they need it. In Indonesia, the number of participants that reported being able to talk to their seniors about any disagreement with ease increased by more than four times.

Program participants reported that they developed stronger bonds with their colleagues and that the program helped develop a sense of camaraderie among the women, creating spaces for them to talk about issues they face in their home or other personal-related stress with someone at work.

Aside from improving the lives of the women who participated, the program yielded several other important benefits: Factory owners report increased productivity, efficiency, and retention, all of which  positively impact their businesses. For example, in Cambodia, P.A.C.E. participants were found to be 66 percent more likely to stay employed with the factory compared to all female garment workers in the factory in the year following the program, a huge feat for an industry with consistently high turnover rates. In India, P.A.C.E. participants were 58 percent more likely to be promoted, and received a higher than stipulated wage increase or demonstrated new skills.

In short, P.A.C.E. is changing many women’s lives. Now operating in 64 garment factories across Asia, the program is successfully helping female garment workers gain the confidence to tackle challenges, understand their self-worth and express themselves with ease, and better manage relationships at both work and home. These newfound skills are invaluable to women who, for far too long, have not had the opportunity to thrive personally or professionally. In fact, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University recently published a case study, highlighting the approach of P.A.C.E. and its successes.

As more and more businesses think about how they can empower women, we urge them to look at P.A.C.E. programs win-win strategy.

P.A.C.E. has proven to be scalable and sustainable with the potential to improve the lives of tens of thousands of women – and their families – across the globe.