Bangladesh factories set for more female supervisors

14 Mar 2019

After a successful pilot, the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative will be scaled up to train 700 female operators and their managers in 70 factories. GEAR trained 144 female workers in the pilot phase; 58 of whom are now in supervisory roles with a 39 percent increase in salary.

March 13, 2019

Dhaka  –To mark 2019 International Women’s Day, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched an innovative training scheme to get more women in supervisory roles in Bangladesh’s garment sector.

The second phase of the GEAR initiative was launched at a high-level International Women’s Day reception, hosted by the High Commission of Canada at the Residence of the H.E High Commissioner of Canada on Monday, 4 March 2019.

GEAR is a special initiative of Better Work Bangladesh – jointly implemented by IFC and the ILO. Rolled out in 2016, the programme has made significant strides in advancing women’s economic potential and improving access to better jobs and opportunities for women.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’. GEAR powerfully reflects this theme by openly addressing workplace gender imbalance via its innovative, empowering and inclusive programme.

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,” said Popy Aktar, a GEAR-trained supervisor.

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 increase of 5 percent in efficiency. The GEAR-promoted female supervisors also saw – on average – a 39 percent increase in salary. 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 RMG sector.

Diplomats and representatives from UN agencies, development partners, donors, government bodies, civil society, the private sector, employers’ organisations and unions attended the launch event.

“Canada is advancing gender equality worldwide through Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. It is not just about hiring or buying from women. It’s about recognising talent, capabilities, and value that is too often disregarded due to gender bias,” said H.E Benoit Préfontaine, High Commissioner of Canada

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 jobs ladder with little room for growth or up scaling of skills.

Despite 80 percent of line-operators in the sewing sections of the garment sector being women,19 out of 20 line-supervisors are male. This means 90 percent of the managerial talent in factories comes from just 20 percent of the workforce.

Mr Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Bangladesh, 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 the RMG sector but in every sector.”

Ms. Nuzhat Anwar, Acting Country Manager, IFC, said, “Increasing efficiency and broad-based employment is a key part of competitiveness for the RMG sector. 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.”


GEAR infographic


GEAR fact sheet

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