Women’s empowerment in the toy supply chain

 Bella Ma, Assistant, Corporate Communications, ICTI Ethical Toy Program


Globally, women make up 39% of the labor force while holding only 24% of senior positions. In general, women face restricted work opportunities, are more likely to fall victim to involuntary, unpaid work and receive inadequate social benefits. Multi-stakeholders collaboration is needed to advance the rights of women in the global supply chain.

In the toy industry, over 60% of toy factory workers are women. Understanding the barriers which prevent women from achieving their full potential at work is critical to advancing the rights, health, and wellbeing of women in the global toy supply chain.

Women’s Empowerment Program in India

The Ethical Toy Program is working with BSR to deliver a project focusing on women’s empowerment at toy factories in India – an emerging center for toy manufacturing. The program is conducting needs assessment at Indian toy factories to understand more about the challenges which women face in the factory workplace.

Initial findings show that the stereotypes of stay-at-home wives and mothers can make it difficult for female toy workers in India to move into supervisory positions, as societal views persist that women are not capable of taking on more senior positions, rising to a managerial level or becoming the breadwinner of the family, all of which have traditionally been seen as male roles.

Such social norms prevent women from reaching their full potential. Underutilizing women’s talents not only has an adverse effect on these toy workers’ well-being, but also prevents factories from maximizing the value of their workforce.

The needs assessments also show that female factory workers in India often put their family before themselves, with family responsibilities potentially hindering career progress.

In 2018, the Ethical Toy Program and BSR will conduct additional needs assessments at toy factories in India. The program will offer in-factory support to address issues identified, ranging from preserving women’s health rights to protecting against harassment, ensuring equal pay to promoting professional advancement.

How toy manufacturers can help close the gender gap

The Ethical Toy Program guidelines are designed to promote gender equality and ensure women are treated fairly and equally. Certified factories must communicate and implement legal, fair policies on recruitment, wages, health rights, discrimination and harassment. Sexual harassment is zero-tolerance issue in our program.

Factories that are certified should at all times observe and respect workers’ rights of association – one way of doing this is by encouraging their workforce to form a women’s committee. These committees can help management understand and address the concerns of female toy workers.

Factory workers are often preoccupied with worries about their families – they perform better at work when they feel assured that their children are taken care of. Our Family-Friendly Spaces (FFS) pilot program creates a safe space at toy factories where workers’ children are looked after whilst their parents work, allowing parents to reunite with their left-behind children during the summer holidays. The program has so far benefited over 500 workers and 500 children, increasing worker well-being and providing support to female workers with left-behind children.

The Ethical Toy Program will continue to press for progress in the rights of women in the global toy supply chain, through developing and implementing our code of conduct and by seeking opportunities for collaboration with other initiatives to achieve gender equality and promote women’s empowerment within toy factories.

Find out how your company can support our work in advancing the rights of women in the global toy supply chain here.

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