Embracing Equity: Highlighting Gildan’s Women Empowerment Initiatives for International Women’s Day
Q&A with Karine Doucet, VP, Global Talent Management and Culture, and Esther Hackett, VP, Human Resources
Today, Gildan pays homage to the International Women’s Day global theme of Embracing Equity by highlighting some of the Company’s efforts that promote a culture of equity within the organization.
Hear from Karine Doucet, Vice-President of Global Talent Management and Culture, and Esther Hackett, Vice-President of Human Resources, to understand how Gildan empowers women in its workforce, as well as the Company’s future plans to continue cultivating equity.
Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
Karine: We’ve come a long way as a society, but there is still more work to be done when it comes to gender equity in the workplace. While this is always a priority at Gildan, International Women’s Day is one of many opportunities to collectively recognize that.
Esther: This day is also an occasion to raise awareness about gender parity, bring our voices together in support of women, and work towards diminishing the roadblocks they may face in the workforce and beyond.
What does Embracing Equity mean to you?
Karine: It is a well-known fact that equity is not the same as equality. We know that we didn’t all start from the same place and that each of us has unique life experiences. And while equality seeks to give everyone the same resources or opportunities, equity aims on the other hand to provide everyone with the resources specific to their needs in order to succeed. So, in short, it’s leveling the playing field.
Esther: In the context of gender, I understand embracing equity as creating a culture free of bias, where everyone is free to be their authentic selves while being supported as they need.
Why is this important at Gildan?
Karine: One of our core values at Gildan is that “we believe in our people.” We are committed to empowering and providing our employees with the support they need to succeed because it is our people that have made us who we are. Practically speaking, this means providing access to the right resources for career advancement, professional development, and allowing each of them to continue growing with us.
What does Embracing Equity look like within your organization?
Karine: It means that we strive to create an equitable environment and meet the unique needs of some of our employees.
I am pleased to say that the Company has made quite a few advancements on this front. We’ve achieved gender parity in the collective group of employees representing manager-level and below positions. Recently, we have also been recognized for our commitments to parity, diversity, and inclusion by the Women in Governance Parity Certification, certified at the silver level. And, based on our most recent engagement survey, we have witnessed above average engagement and inclusion scores, with both our female and male population.
To continue onward and push our concerted efforts further, we have set a goal to achieve gender parity for the collective group of employees encompassing Director-level and above positions by 2027 as part of the Human Capital Management area of focus under Gildan’s Next Generation ESG strategy.
In order to help achieve this goal, we launched many initiatives, including the Women in Leadership Program – Ignite your Impact, which brings together a talented group of women from across the organization for a comprehensive and engaging leadership development experience.
Esther: We believe that equity also goes beyond the workplace and is important to foster within our communities. We partner with several organizations that help bridge the gap when it comes to female education. For instance, since 2017, we have been partnering with Room to Read, an organization in Bangladesh which helps make education more accessible for young girls.
Last year, we also partnered with World Vision in Bangladesh to promote the economic empowerment of women and educate them with personal finance management skills.
In 2021, Gildan signed the Gender Equality Seal commitment, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), managed by the Ministry of Women in the Dominican Republic at the national level. Through this, we work towards reducing gender gaps and promoting gender equality and competitiveness.
So, as you can see, embracing equity comes in different shapes and forms at Gildan.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Women in Leadership Program – Ignite Your Impact?
Karine: In 2021, we launched this program to support female employees at the manager level and above with advancing their careers. This is a six-month program, which includes hands-on training and networking opportunities with Gildan leaders, members of the board, and colleagues. Participants have the opportunity to learn from their peers’ experience and gain inspiration from them. Our first two cohorts included a group of women from six different countries with various backgrounds and career ambitions.
Esther: This program is turning out to be a big success. Based on the survey we sent out, 95% of the graduates from the cohorts were satisfied with the program, and many were promoted shortly after graduating or made lateral moves within the organization!
We are determined to take this success to greater horizons and continue our efforts to provide these key development opportunities to our female employees.
How does Gildan embrace equity/break the gender bias in traditionally male dominated areas, such as the manufacturing sector?
Esther: As a manufacturing Company, we are naturally aware that some of our role types are traditionally male dominated, while others are more female dominated. But this doesn’t hold us back! We embrace employees’ ability to experiment with different roles, discover everything the Company has to offer, and find their fit. Transfers within the Company are something that we highly encourage and we’re planning to put an even bigger focus on that in the years to come to allow our employees to experience Gildan from all angles.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced when it comes to creating a more equitable environment at Gildan?
Karine: As a global company that operates across 12 different countries, each with its own cultural identity, every location and its people have unique views and ideologies. This brings an added level of complexity, however, our strategy is to recognize these differences and implement programs that address the unique needs of our respective hubs. There is no one-size-fits-all program or initiative to combat gender inequity, and so, we strive to think globally, and act locally.
What are some of Gildan’s future plans to create more equitable opportunities for women?
Karine: Embracing equity is an ongoing journey at Gildan, and we are determined to go further to make our employees feel ever more accepted and allow them to be the best version of themselves.
One of our efforts towards creating a more equitable environment is launching our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) awareness training on a global scale, for all our 50,000 employees. This training is meant to educate our employees on DEI concepts, and build a workforce that is more attuned to biases to create an inclusive environment for all.
Esther: Last, but certainly not least, we also actively balance our gender slates of candidates in our hiring processes, and make sure we give everyone a fair chance to join us!
Find out more about Gildan here.