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Report: Training program helps female RMG workers break the ‘cloth ceiling’

  • Published at 05:06 pm May 30th, 2018
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Oxford University's evaluation report 'Cutting through the Cloth Ceiling' presentation on Wednesday Mehedi Hasan

According to a University of Oxford evaluation of a training program by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), training for female line workers in the Bangladesh Ready-made Garment (RMG) sector, has increased their participation in supervisory roles in addition to increasing productivity.

The evaluation report unveiled on Wednesday, titled “Cutting through the Cloth Ceiling,” examined the impact of IFC’s   Work-Progression and Productivity Toolkit. The IFC is a sister organization of the World Bank.

The evaluation, led by the University of Oxford’s, Professor Christopher Woodruff and Anaise Williams, tested the effectiveness of the IFC training program by measuring how many of the trainees were offered and accepted promotions, as well as by testing the attitudes of the trainees, their colleagues, and factory management.

Despite women making up 80% of production line employees, 19 out of 20 line supervisors are men, the study said.

It added that the IFC training program helps address this gender imbalance on the sewing lines, as it increased the number of women in supervisory roles, boosted productivity, and reduced absenteeism in the Bangladesh RMG sector.

The IFC training program was piloted in 28 factories, including 10 which had no female line supervisors at the beginning of the initiative. A total of 144 women participated in the training program, 92 of whom were offered promotions with increased salaries within weeks of its completion. About 60% accepted the offers.

 “The training taught me how to speak to people at different levels, how to behave as a professional, how to keep track of my work as well as calculate production and efficiency in an organized way,” said Poppy Aktar, who was promoted to line supervisor at Sparrow Apparels Ltd after participating in the training program.

Jesmin Akter, a supervisor at Jinnat Knitwear Ltd who also took part in the training program, said: “I used to be afraid before this training program and I struggled with confidence because I wondered if I could actually move up the ranks as a woman.  I wasn’t even interested in pursuing this track because I didn’t think it was possible as a woman.”

She added that she had been feeling “free and unburdened” since the completion of her training.

The number of female supervisors in participating factories increased from an average of 5.22% before the training program, to 11.86% afterwards, the evaluation said, adding that lines with female supervisors who participated in the training, showed a 5% increase in efficiency.

Wendy Werner, country manager of IFC for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, said: “The research shows that the training increases line efficiency and benefits both the female supervisors and the factories that promote them. If scaled-up in more factories, it has the potential to overturn the industry’s blind spot when it comes to career progression opportunities for women.”

Meanwhile, Jinnat Knitwears Ltd Assistant Manager (HR), Mahbub Hoshen, said: “I have been here for eight years and noticed that most of the floors have a majority of women, yet there was not a single female supervisor or line chief at that time. The management of the factories themselves realized the need to support women to move up the leadership pipeline. The management supported us in this objective.”

Supported by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, IFC conducted the training program in collaboration with Better Work Bangladesh. Additional funding was provided by the World Bank-administered Let’s Work multi-donor trust fund. 

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