Like corporate offices, garment factories are digitizing quickly—a change accelerated further by the COVID-19 pandemic. With this increased digitization comes additional challenges for upholding workplace data protection, and garment supply chain workers often lack the information, skills, and power to be resilient when facing these disruptions.

This is especially true for women, who make up the largest portion of the garment sector workforce, and thus the impacts of technology and data use on female workers demand particular attention. Existing workplace inequalities that women face are compounded by the fact that technology design, implementation, and governance disproportionately exclude them. Women feel the brunt of negative consequences from data misuse through amplified impacts on their right to privacy, nondiscrimination, the right to work, and so forth.

As factories continue to digitize, the need for discussion of the responsible use of data in the supply chain is more urgent than ever. This paper explores digital technology in the garment supply chain and analyzes the actual and potential impacts of data use on workers, with a special focus on women workers. It also provides recommendations to key stakeholders in the garment supply chain on how to implement digital technologies in a way that respects and promotes workers’ rights.

This paper’s findings are derived from conversations with HERproject country representatives and implementing partners from India, Bangladesh, and Kenya; consultations with subject matter experts; and interviews with supply chain technology providers.

Businesses interested in learning more about HERproject’s work on technology, human rights, and empowering women workers in the global supply chain can feel free to reach out to the team.

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