P.A.C.E. - Empowering Women

PACE Changing one million lives

P.A.C.E. - Empowering Women The women of P.A.C.E. each have a story

Launched in 2007, our innovative Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) program was initially created to support women in the global apparel industry. Although women represent the majority of the sector’s workforce, relatively few have the opportunity to advance to management positions, and many lack access to the education and skills training they need to support their personal and professional growth. We developed P.A.C.E. to give these women the foundational life skills, technical training and support that will help them advance in the workplace and in their personal lives, as documented in the program’s evaluation results. We began delivering P.A.C.E. in our vendors’ facilities in 2007, and expanded the program to community settings in 2013 to unlock new possibilities for women and adolescent girls.

Gap Inc. believes that all women deserve to reach their full potential and to find and use their voices.

Being involved in a transformational journey themselves, P.A.C.E. trained women had an aspiration for their daughters to participate in a similar program. In 2016, Gap Inc. expanded the P.A.C.E. programming to include adolescent girls in two age groups (11-13 and 14-17) as a result of the vision that P.A.C.E. graduates had seen for their own daughters to possess better life skills, to be bolder, braver and able to negotiate their problems more effectively. 

We seek to bring P.A.C.E. to as many women and girls as possible. By 2022, over one million women will have participated in this life-changing program, and we anticipate that many more will be served in the next after that. In 2017, we implemented a new strategy that will help us grow P.A.C.E. by forming new partnerships, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our program management and through the development of a new learning management program. 

As of early 2020, over 500,000 women in 17 countries have participated. These gains came as the result of momentum with existing partners and the addition of new partners with the potential to greatly expand the program.

Program Expansion

In Cambodia, we partnered with Heifer International to deliver the program to women smallholder farmers. In India, we worked with the play and entertainment company Hasbro and India’s Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) union to pilot P.A.C.E. in the workplace (Hasbro) and in communities (SEWA). In China, we partnered with the food and beverage company Want Want Group and China Women’s University to bring P.A.C.E. to the university setting for the first time. These partnerships allowed us to scale and expand the program, while the expansion into academia enables us to empower students and women and sustain programs that are adaptable to the formal education system.

In addition to these partners, a third of the total women reached in 2018 came through our sourcing vendors, who run their own implementation programs, supporting the resiliency of our supply chain and improving their own business outcomes. We also launched new P.A.C.E. programs in community settings in Ethiopia and Tanzania, two non-sourcing countries where we are working with CARE and Project Concern International, respectively, to build the capabilities of women economically and socially. In early 2019, we began discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to expand on our training in Jordan, begun in 2018, to nearby countries such as Turkey.

Also in 2018, we expanded our focus on adolescent girls through community programs in Cambodia with Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), in India with MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child, in Indonesia with CARE, and in China with INNO Community Development Organisation.

In addition to the expansion of P.A.C.E., we elevated the program’s profile through a marketing campaign, Raise Every Voice, led by our Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta brands. This campaign – which included a page on the brands’ e-commerce sites to raise customer awareness and share inspiring stories about P.A.C.E. graduates – engaged Gap Inc. customers in a conversation about the P.A.C.E. mission. In 2019, we will tie this campaign to a fundraising initiative, empowering our customers to support women and girls in communities near and far.

Two of the things that distinguish P.A.C.E. are our focus on trainers and our robust curriculum, designed to engage people with diverse needs. As P.A.C.E. grows, we want to make sure our NGO and facility partners can continue to run an effective program after the partnership with Gap Inc. ends. To do this, we invest in the people who deliver the program and continually refine the curriculum to make sure it can be adapted for different settings and learning styles. Every year, we gather P.A.C.E. trainers from around the world to participate in a professional development program.

Looking forward, we are exploring opportunities to collaborate with other leaders in women’s empowerment to create a standard program for the apparel industry to provide life and work training for women. In a discussion facilitated by the advisory practice of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW Advisors), we are working with representatives from the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program and BSR’s HERproject on concrete ways we can collaborate to accelerate progress toward the change we all seek. In particular, we are exploring how to increase the effectiveness of our training programs by harmonizing curriculum and coordinating implementation. We are also looking at ways to collectively influence policy and strategy conversations on workplace women’s empowerment programs.

P.A.C.E. Video

Documenting our Impact

As we evaluate our programs, we have reflected on several key ingredients that make P.A.C.E. a success: our strong partnerships both internally and externally, our relationship with our key vendor partners and our focus on the women of today. Since the lives of women have changed since we launched P.A.C.E., we continue to evaluate our curriculum to ensure that it remains relevant in our rapidly changing world.

Over the years, P.A.C.E. has evolved from teams that focused on specific local management to a global program that can better share lessons across geographies. This helps us develop approaches to contextualize the content to fit local priorities, while building out resources for a global scale. We are developing a framework for a new community of practice that will coordinate and build consistency in our systems and make it easier for P.A.C.E. teams as well as our implementing partners globally to share tools, knowledge and resources such as master trainers.


We have found that P.A.C.E. programs are most effective in communities where we have a strong presence. By focusing on our supply chain, we are better able to understand the specific needs and challenges in those areas, and by engaging with our vendors, we can support their business and ours. Suppliers who have implemented P.A.C.E. These suppliers report benefits in the form of improved workforce productivity and performance and greater retention of workers. P.A.C.E. strengthens our relationship with our suppliers and enhances their performance, and it also deepens the sense of meaning and purpose among our employees.

Evaluations of participants have documented our impact: Women who participate in P.A.C.E. report increased knowledge, skills and productivity, as well as higher self-esteem and confidence, as documented in the program’s evaluation results. They describe becoming better at communicating, managing their finances, taking care of their health and planning for the future. P.A.C.E. has also helped enhance women’s relationships at work, at home and in their communities. 

Women who participate in P.A.C.E. report increased knowledge, skills and productivity, as well as higher self-esteem and confidence.

Women in P.A.C.E. classroom

Gap Inc. and USAID Women + Water Global Development Alliance

In many garment-producing countries, some of women’s most significant challenges relate to water. Women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to household responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning, which require water. According to UNICEF, women and girls globally spend more than 200 million hours collecting water each day—time that could be spent earning additional income, caring for their families or getting an education. Moreover, women, along with their families, face serious health risks due to inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, and poor understanding of healthy hygiene practices. 

In an additional effort to address these water challenges and strengthen women’s lives, we have integrated a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) curriculum into our P.A.C.E. program. The P.A.C.E. WASH curriculum is part of our core P.A.C.E. curriculum and is key to our larger Women + Water strategy, which seeks to address water issues through the lens of people and human rights.


In 2017, we announced a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that is expanding this program even further. Gap Inc. and USAID’s five-year Women + Water Global Development Alliance aims to advance the health and well-being of women, families and communities touched by the apparel industry. 

Over the course of this five-year program, Gap Inc. is serving as the co-funder and primary program manager. The W+W Alliance operates in two Indian states critical to the apparel industry — Maharashtra, a key cotton-growing state, and Madhya Pradesh, a textile industry hub. Three implementing partners — CARE, Water.org and Institute for Sustainability Communities (ISC) — are helping the program work toward two objectives, where women’s self-efficacy and agency plays a critical role to:

1. Encourage communities to adopt key WASH practices

2. Build access to and sustainably manage quality water resources and sanitation services

This pioneering public-private partnership aligns closely to our goals related to sustainable water stewardship and empowering women with WASH education, services and products. The program is primarily being implemented in communities where cotton is grown and where fabric mills are located. Through rigorous monitoring and evaluation, we are deepening our understanding of the WASH needs of women and girls in communities while improving our ability to deliver programs that support their well-being. To catalyze progress, we are also learning and sharing best practices for WASH and water stewardship across the apparel industry and beyond.

We began offering P.A.C.E. in community settings in 2013 to support women outside the factory environment. We are now enhancing our approach even further to reach one million women throughout the world by end of 2022.

Alliance partners—including Water.org, CARE India, Institute for Sustainable Communities and ICRW—will draw on their complementary strengths to improve health and well-being in countries of shared interest, starting in India. 

To maximize the impact of these efforts, the Alliance is applying a three-part approach based on:

  • Gender sensitivity: While we will engage both men and women, we recognize the pivotal role that women play in society and their unique needs and opportunities. 
  • Systems thinking: We understand that a variety of interdependent factors can determine the behaviors of individuals, and we recognize that changes at the individual, organizational, community and systems levels are often needed to sustainably improve the lives of women, their families and their communities.
  • Flexibility: The program will allow us to learn while doing, and we will adjust as the program evolves.