Pilot shows female bosses in garment factories boost efficiency

brett mathews | 13th March 2019

GENEVA – The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) are rolling out an innovative training scheme to get more women into supervisory roles in Bangladesh’s garment sector. ‘Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR), an initiative of Better Work Bangladesh, has already operated a successful pilot which-trained 144 female workers, 58 of whom are now in supervisory roles. Results from the pilot found that that lines led by GEAR-trained females experienced an average increase of 5 per cent in efficiency. Moreover, GEAR-promoted female supervisors also saw on average a 39 per cent increase in salary.

The lack of promotion of women into supervisory and management roles in Bangladesh is a serious issue which, as well as being unfair for those concerned, is also holding the country’s economy back. In Bangladesh, Better Work’s own research shows that women hold just seven per cent of supervisory roles, even though they represent 53 per cent of the workforce.

Moreover, despite 80 per cent of line-operators in the sewing sections of Bangladesh’s garment sector being women, 19 out of 20 line-supervisors are male. This means 90 per cent of the managerial talent in factories comes from just 20 per cent of the workforce – suggesting that Bangladesh is seriously missing a trick by overlooking so much potential management talent. The issue is placed into further context when one considers that Bangladesh has a significant amount of foreign labour – Indian and Sri Lankan – in supervisory and management roles in its garment sector

Countess research studies have shown that diverse, equal opportunities workplaces are more productive, are less likely to have staff retention issues and generally lead to more satisfied and fulfilled employees.

Better Work is now scaling up GEAR to train 700 female operators and their managers in 70 factories to promote career-progression opportunities for women in the readymade garment sector.

“Gender equality and gender empowerment was one of the core founding principles of the ILO in 1919. 100 years on and this is still central to our work. But much more needs to be done in advancing gender diversity – not just in the RMG sector but in every sector,” Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of ILO Bangladesh, told Apparel Insider.