The Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative was launched at a high-level International Women's Day reception
To mark International Women’s Day this year, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have launched an innovative training scheme to get more women in supervisory roles in Bangladesh’s garment sector.
The Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative was launched at a high-level International Women's Day reception, hosted by the High Commission of Canada at the residence of High Commissioner of Canada in Bangladesh Benoit Préfontaine on March 4, according to a press release.
“Canada is advancing gender equality worldwide through Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. It is not just about hiring or buying from women, rather about recognizing talent, capabilities, and value that is too often disregarded due to gender bias,” said Préfontaine.
GEAR is a special initiative of Better Work Bangladesh—jointly implemented by IFC and the ILO. Rolled out in 2016, the program has made significant strides in advancing women’s economic potential and improving access to better jobs and opportunities for women.
GEAR openly addresses workplace gender imbalance via its innovative, empowering, and inclusive program.
Popy Aktar, a GEAR-trained supervisor who works for Sparrow Apparels in Gazipur, said: “I would, slowly but surely, like to rise from my current position as a supervisor to a line-chief, then an assistant production manager, and finally become a production manager.”
To date, GEAR has trained 144 female workers—58 of whom are now in supervisory roles. Impact assessment shows that lines led by GEAR-trained females experienced an average efficiency increase of 5%.
GEAR-promoted female supervisors also saw, on average, a 39% increase in salaries.
After a successful pilot, Better Work is scaling up GEAR to train 700 female operators and their managers in 70 factories to promote career-progression opportunities for women in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector.
Diplomats and representatives from UN agencies, development partners, donours, government bodies, civil society, the private sector, employers’ organizations, and unions attended the launch event.
In ways that are both subtle and obvious, women also face discrimination and harassment on a daily basis. They often work at the lowest rung of the job ladder with little room for growth or up scaling of skills.
Despite 80% of line-operators in the sewing sections of the garment sector being women,19 out of 20 line-supervisors are male. This means 90% of the managerial talent in factories comes from just 20% of the workforce.
Country Director of ILO Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen, said: “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 RMG, but in every sector.”
Acting Country Manager of IFC Nuzhat Anwar said increasing efficiency and broad-based employment is a key part of competitiveness for the RMG sector, adding that there is a strong business case to having more females in leadership positions.
"Through the GEAR program, we hope to actively work on increasing career-progression opportunities and promotion of women, and addressing the gender imbalances in leadership roles in the garment sector," Nuzhat furthered.