Inspiring Women  Sharing stories of the women who inspire us

Women are the driving force behind the apparel industry and our brand. Just as the majority of our customers and employees are women, so are most of the people making our clothes. Yet around the world, women have less access to education, earn less money and are more at risk of violence. It doesn’t have to be this way. When women are educated, healthy, and economically empowered, families and communities can thrive. For two weeks in 2016, our colleagues in C&A stores, offices and C&A Foundation celebrated women who have had an important influence on their lives. 

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Why the Inspiring Women campaign is so important

  • The apparel industry employs about 75 million people around the world. Approximately 80% are female, including more than 70% in China, 85% in Bangladesh, and 90% in Cambodia.
  • Of the 21 million people trapped in forced and bonded labour worldwide across all industries (not just apparel), 11.4 million are women and girls. [SOURCE: ILO: Global Estimate of Forced Labour, 2012]
  • For every dollar earned by men, women only make 77 cents for work of equal value – making the global gender pay gap 23% [SOURCE: SDGs in action/Project Everyone].
  • Women carry out 2.5 times more unpaid work, as well as household and care work, than men.

“In Brazil we have this stereotype that women belong in the kitchen, staying home and looking after their children. Not chasing their dreams. When my mother lost my father, we couldn’t pay for our home and my mother became a bank teller. She worked harder and did better than anybody, but it still took her much longer than a man to become a manager.”

Valter Teixera, C&A Brazil

Our 2016 performance

C&A is committed to improving the situation of women worldwide — in our own company, in our supply network and in communities around the world. Last year, 23,600 employees took part and raised more than €1 million for 53 charities. This year, we built on the success of our first Inspiring Women campaign and we:

  • Over €398,000 raised for 15 charities.
  • Recorded a total participation rate of 78% among C&A employees in those countries that took part in the event (15,835 employees), up from 52% in the same countries in 2015.

 

Inspiring Women 2016 ran with a much more localised approach in Brazil, Mexico and our other sourcing countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Turkey and Vietnam. We wanted to see what would happen when we allowed regions to tailor a unique approach with their partners to their local markets.

In October 2016, C&A employees from Brazil, Mexico, and the sourcing countries came together over two weeks. We shared stories of the women who inspired us and linked up with 15 local charities, all working to improve the lives of women in our local communities. Stories were personal and heartfelt, spanning issues from education and domestic violence, to developing life skills and financial literacy. 

Our mothers shape our lives

Nearly 16,000 C&A employees shared their stories and three-quarters chose their mother as the women who had taught them something important in their lives, followed by their grandmothers and daughters. Employees shared their stories, paying tribute to their inspiring woman: every story and selfie triggered a donation from C&A Foundation. 

A new approach

In 2015 we rolled out Inspiring Women using a centralised approach. Although it worked well and we were proud of the results, the feedback we received suggested that allowing our regions to tailor the campaign would ensure it was even more relevant. This year we provided a framework to work from, with each region creating its own implementation strategy – and the results from 2016 are testament to the success of this method.

  • Being able to share all of this together with the company I work with, makes me feel more and more like I'm in the right company. These moments are very valuable. 
  • Fanny Fan has worked for C&A Sourcing in China for 15 years: “This campaign has given me the opportunity to recall the woman in my life who have helped me, supported me and inspired me. Importantly, the campaign offers us the chance to help women who need our help and support, which is very meaningful.” 
  • Vanderson Santos, who works for C&A Brazil, says it was hard to choose her inspiring woman and the campaign really made her think: “In my family, there are three important women. My mother and my two older sisters, who taught me to distinguish right from wrong and the best way to act in every kind of situation. In my day-to-day, these three women provide all the support I need."
  • Over €398,000 was raised for 15 charities.
  • 78% total participation rate among C&A employees in those countries that took part in the event (15,835 employees), up from 52% in the same countries in 2015.
  • 87% of those who participated in the event said it made them happier about working at C&A, compared with 61% after the 2015 event. 
  • 98% of those who participated agreed “I am proud to be associated with C&A”, compared with 84% in 2015. (Note: the statement in 2015 was slightly different “I feel proud to say I work at C&A to people I meet”). 
  • 90% of participants said they feel connected to people working in their workplace – compared with 80% in 2015. 
  • 99% of participants said that C&A operates in a socially responsible manner – compared with 92% in 2015. 
  • 72% of participants said they have talked about the Inspiring Women event with friends and family outside of work – compared with 68% in 2015. 

 

 

 

Where next?

In 2017, we are continuing to celebrate women, helping them realise their potential and the hugely valuable contribution they make in our business and communities. Between 22 May and 2 June 2017, we asked everyone in C&A Europe and China to say "Thank you for teaching me something important" to an inspiring woman, share their story with colleagues, upload a photo and vote for a charity that helps women live safe and successful lives. Each action triggered a donation from C&A Foundation to their chosen NGO. More information can be found here: Inspiring Women 2017.

We want C&A colleagues to be proud of C&A and this campaign. We hope it contributes to their wellbeing and that of the communities they live in. We want them to be inspired by the power and potential of women, and to spread the message of what is possible when women are given the opportunity to succeed.

CASE STUDY

Inspiring Women: Valter’s story

“You have to keep talking about women’s equality [in Brazil]. It’s an issue that is not going to solve itself. We have to actively work towards respecting women and achieving equality. Being part of Inspiring Women was incredible, I believe through [initiatives like this] we are sparking the kind of change we need to make happen.”

Valter Teixeira’s mother is his inspiration and his hero. After his father died, she took a job at a bank, working hard to support her young family and rising up through the ranks despite the setbacks she faced because of her gender. He hopes that by sharing her story, and for others like her, we can start the conversations that will bring about equality.

Issues surrounding gender equality are rife in Brazil. Teixeira explains:

“There is a stereotype here in Brazil which says that women belong in the kitchen. I have heard people say so many times: ‘you have kids, you should stay home and look after them’. Women shouldn’t be chasing their dreams, they should be caring for their family. My mother used to say that even when [women] are resting, they are still carrying rocks.”

For Teixeira this attitude is not acceptable. The troubles his mother went through, from losing her husband, to becoming a bank teller and being promoted much slower than any of the men – even though she surpassed them in skills – really represent how much she has sacrificed and how strong she is. Having to obtain a job after the death of her husband was troubling and took time. However, as Teixeira says:

“She was an inspiration for so many other managers. The women were happy there was a strong woman who had their backs and who would help them speak out. Everyone needs support, especially when they’re fighting against pre-conceptions.”

Driven to make a change, Teixeira took part in C&A’s Inspiring Women campaign, first in 2015, then again in 2016, when he made the heartfelt video.

The process of telling his mother’s story had a wider affect than he could have thought:

“It was fantastic. I was crying, the camera man and script director were crying. I realised how much of an issue [discrimination against women] is.”

But not only did those immediately near him have a response. Associates from all over Brazil started to get in touch to say they looked up to him and wanted to follow in his footsteps by participating in Inspiring Women next year.

“It was wonderful for me to see that my story had changed minds and made people think. My mother loved it and it has brought us closer together. She is an amazing woman and my role model. I’ve raised my daughter like she raised me. My accomplishments are her accomplishments.”

However, gender equality is still a long way off in many countries. Including Brazil. But people like Teixeira, who see that every small victory adds up to a greater achievement, are driving forward the change. As he concludes:

 

“Inspiring Women plants the seed that helps inspire women and men to challenge these issues. Then they raise their kids differently and the culture develops. Little by little and year by year, we can show we all deserve the same respect. I hope that by telling my story, I will help others and one day the world will change.”

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