Supporting Women Workers in China: How HR and NGOs Should Adapt

March 29, 2013
  • Jason Ho

    Former Manager, Advisory Services & CTI, BSR

Jason Ho, Manager, Advisory Services and CTI, BSR

A new BSR report, Between the Lines: Listening to Female Factory Workers, demonstrates the diversity of women’s career aspirations, which vary across different industries, educational backgrounds, and age groups. Some women want to own their business, or advance to the management level, while others don’t express interest in changing positions. In order for stakeholders to work effectively with women to address their unique challenges, they should first speak directly to the women to understand their needs and wants. Human resources functions in factories need to adapt, and NGOs that work specifically with female workers need to build their own capacity to engage effectively with the women they seek to empower.

Coinciding with Women’s International Day on March 8, BSR’s team in Guangzhou invited a group of stakeholders to share their perspectives about ways to effectively address China’s new generation of female factory workers. The following is a summary of what they said:

  • Factory Management: Human resources management within factories has traditionally focused on employment law and compliance issues. To effectively manage the increasingly diverse set of workers’ needs, HR teams have to evolve and be able to not only identify potential leaders but also develop clear and transparent links between performance and promotion, and oversee the development of worker committees—an essential component of capacity-building programs within factories.
  • NGOs: Those specializing in women’s issues strongly believe that community support and networking can be an invaluable resource for female workers. To do this effectively requires female NGO leaders skilled in developing partnerships to establish long-term roots within the local community and connections with workers.
  • Workers: Many see an opportunity to increase their knowledge base and personal development but would like employers to provide them with a clear concept of leadership in the factory context and beyond. They also want support from employers for personal development and access to information on career paths. Committees of female workers would be one platform where workers could develop a social network that can operate effectively within a mobile networked environment—where much of the communication between workers already takes place.

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