Women play a large role in the fashion industry often filling up more than 80% of the places in fashion schools as well as entry-level fashion jobs. Unfortunately, as these women climb up the ranks the invisible ceiling appears with only a few of those women making it to top positions in companies. Things have improved drastically in the last few years with more female designers putting women at the forefront of their companies but there is certainly more we can do to support the women that prop up and add value to this industry.
A lot of women do not feel they are able to ask for a promotion, its important for all of us to speaking up and appreciating our colleagues and encourage each other to demand the respect we all deserve.
“Even if certain fashion houses were created by women at their time, today they often have creative leaders that are men.”
In addition, women feel the prospect of motherhood weighed on their careers with many male managers lacking understanding, expecting employees to be 100% committed and available 24/7 while getting not much out of it themselves. Women are expected to go above and beyond for the companies they work for while many of these companies deny responsibility when its time for them to invest money and sacrifice time on the behalf of hard-working pregnant women. Giving birth is a huge responsibility and women should be honoured for this. Systems should be put in place that allows women to feel supported during this time. If you are in a position of power at your workplace don’t consider female employee becoming pregnant as a nuisance but budget and prepare ahead of time. We all know women have the choice to give birth so it should be something companies anticipate and prepare for.
Women also struggle with perception in the fashion industry with a larger proportion of male fashion designers being deemed as innovative, original and business-minded, gaining more attention and opportunities while female designers are not seen as frequently in the same light. We all need to work on our gender biases and look out for people from all backgrounds and genders when seeking talent to showcase.
More than 70% of garment makers in China, Bangladesh and Cambodia amongst other countries are women. When we are talking about better working conditions and better pay we are most likely talking about women. Many garment workers are working under dismal conditions, working overtime for money that barely covers their basic needs. We have to take into consideration that in most of these countries gender inequality is a more prevalent issue that has not been tackled in the same way as in fashion capitals such as New York, Paris and London, so it is down to us to promote equality to those who do not have a voice. As consumers and people in the industry, we may question but what can we do about this? With digital media changing how the business of fashion functions, anyone can be an opinion leader, using their platform to encourage and praise brands that work to improve working conditions as well as naming and shaming those we aren’t. Designers also have the responsibility to ensure the clothes they are putting out are made guilt-free, knowing their workers have been paid fairly and are in good conditions.
This Women’s History month lets think about what we can do to publicly promote and support women in such a female-dominated industry.