By Fast Retailing
Fast Retailing is determined to ensure that all the people who work in its supply chain can work safely with peace of mind and fulfillment in their jobs. To help make this a reality, in December 2019, the company held empowerment training for female employees working in the factories of manufacturing partners in Bangladesh in cooperation with UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
With over 2.5 million female workers, garment factories are one of the main sources of employment for women in Bangladesh. Yet, despite female employees making up over half the workers at such factories, insufficient attention is given to enhancing their skills, and the percentage of women in management positions is low.
Seeking to change this situation, Fast Retailing trialed a training program to empower women working in two factories of its manufacturing partners in Bangladesh from December 2019 to April 2020 in cooperation with UN Women. Roughly 300 people took part in the training, learning communication skills, target setting, and other business fundamentals. Applied training in leadership and other skills was also given to 100 women who have the potential to attain management positions in the future.
More than half the participants said after the training that they had gained enough confidence in themselves to aim for management positions. Approximately 80% said that they would like to be promoted to a management position in the future. Some of the male employees in management positions also took part in the training and stated that they now had greater expectations for female employees.
Hashi Begum was one of those who took part in the training. "If all female employees took part in this training, the workplace environment would be better, and we would be able to give our own opinions. Before this I was shy about expressing myself and afraid to try new things, but now I want to take on any challenge regardless of my gender," she said.
Sultana Afrin was another participant. She said, "In the future I want to work in a position with more authority in the workplace. I used to think that working outside the house was a man's role. My thinking is different after taking this training course. My communication skills are better, and I was able to tell my husband that both of us should be responsible for the housework."
Shoko Ishikawa, Country Representative for UN Women Bangladesh, commented that "To advance gender equality and women's empowerment, companies play an extremely important role as employers to encourage women to become independent. Women working in factories are role models in their own countries for overcoming social, economic, and cultural barriers. It's very important for employers to continue to support their career development. I look forward to seeing more efforts to help achieve this from Fast Retailing."
Takahiro Fukunishi, a researcher in the garment industry in developing countries for the Institute of Developing Economies Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO), said of this training program that "participants have changed how they see themselves from many different angles, leading to greater potential for women to improve their capabilities. The male employees who took part now recognize that women can hold management positions. It has positively benefited workplace environments for women."
The results of these trials will be used to design an even better program, taking into account the circumstances of the garment industry in Bangladesh, which was heavily affected by the spread of COVID-19.
Fast Retailing also intends to promote the creation of an organization to support women's empowerment throughout the industry in Bangladesh, with the cooperation of industry associations and NGOs.
Fast Retailing embraces diversity as one of its most valued principles. We respect and appreciate individuality and strive to create a working environment where every person has equal opportunity to use their abilities to the fullest and fulfill their potential.
Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran