Training female sewing operators increases supervisory roles for women, boosts productivity, and reduces absenteeism in the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh,according to a University of Oxford evaluation of a training programme by IFC, a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group.
The report, Cutting through the Cloth Ceiling, presents findings that show IFC’s Work-Progression and Productivity Toolkit helps redress the gender imbalance on sewing lines where about 19 of every 20 line supervisors are men—despite women making up 80 per cent of production-line employees.
The study found that of the 144 women who attended the training programme, 92 were offered a promotion with an increase in salary—within weeks of completing the programme. About 60 per cent of them accepted the offer.
After the training, the number of female supervisors in participating factories increased to an average of about 12 per cent from five per cent. The evaluation also finds an average efficiency increase of five per cent and reduction of absenteeism in lines where trained female supervisors worked.
Wendy Werner, Country Manager of IFC Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, said, “Research shows that 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.”
The garment sector in Bangladesh provides formal employment opportunities for over 4.0 million low-skilled workers, 60 per cent of whom are women. Supported by Japan’s Ministry of Finance, IFC delivered the toolkit training in 28 garment factories in collaboration with Better Work Bangladesh. Additional funding was provided by the World Bank-administered Let’s Work multi-donor trust fund.
The programme consisted of five days of classroom training in the technical skills and four days of soft skills on leadership and communications skills required to be an effective supervisor.The trainees then applied what they have learned over eight weeks of on-the-job training alongside an experienced supervisorto prepare them for the step up to supervisory roles. Middle and upper-level managers also received training on how to quantifiably assess the skills and attitude of candidates for promotion.
“The training taught me how to speak to people at different levels, how to behave as a professional, and how to keep track of my work and calculate production and efficiency in an organised way,” said Popy Aktar. She is now a sewing line supervisor at Sparrow Apparels Ltd.