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Gender Inequality Within the Fashion Industry and how Women can Finally Break the Glass Ceiling

In this article, I will be discussing and raising awareness of an industry-related and social issue which is minimally raised within our society but affects many individuals; gender inequality. As a graduate fashion student, this issue became the topic of many conversations surrounding social justice during my time at university. However, these conversations have not yet resulted in any action, and the industry has remained the same. Collectively, women on a global scale remain struggling with levelling up to hierarchical positions, sexual harassment, being belittled by men in power and being denied equal pay, rights, responsibilities and opportunities.

Gender pay gap

Statistical data from 1997 to 2001 shows that the gender pay gap between male and female full-time workers regarding hourly average earnings has reduced to 15.5%. Although the results show this has a significant association with age, I believe hierarchical power also plays a role. Men have naturally found themselves in higher-level positions/positions of leadership and status due to having more opportunities to build their skillset and, as a result, have a more significant advantage when getting hired and chosen for leading roles. Additionally, even amongst men and women in similar professions, if a woman spends more time acquiring a skill alone to compete with a male who already obtains it, this justifies leaders implementing a wage gap and leaves her at a disadvantage.

The fashion industry is an example of this by showing an outward declaration that women hold power through fashion modelling, filling entry-level roles etc. Yet, behind doors, men are provided and placed in many top positions in corporate hierarchies and fashion houses.

Garment workers

Within many third-world countries, women are found holding the fast fashion industry together and earn less that the minimal cost of living; they endure this lifestyle as it is possibly the only way they can earn to provide for themselves and build towards their future. According to Kelly Crawford, a fabric sourcing specialist, many suffer from exploitation and abuse, both verbal and physical; they also frequently put up dangerous working conditions and lack access to mandatory healthcare. These women need help, but the demand for fast fashion and the men running these companies have little sympathy demonstrating that their needs will remain neglected and pushed back in our current society if there is no change.

What changes need to be made?

In my opinion, women should be placed in leadership roles because we understand each other's needs and, regardless of the position held, are capable of radically altering the supply chain. Female executives have shown to set better, more compassionate, and understanding working cultures, and they serve as strong role models for those women who wish to advance in the field. They can also effectively stand and support the rights of women working at the bottom of the supply chain and distribute equality across the industry.

What can women do to change this?

Women can collectively come together to voice their opinion on this to start a change. A method already used but can be implemented more is trade unions which protect human rights and help negotiate benefits and working conditions for industry workers. Not only should this apply to women working towards leadership positions, but this should be effective within the whole supply chain of every company. As there are chances of miscommunication between countries, women at the bottom of the supply chain should continue raising awareness and informing workers about any sexual harassment occurring so they can stand together to push for change.

Furthermore, when applying for a role within companies, if the company openly addresses inequality within the workspace, this is a symbol women have a better chance of getting promoted into higher positions and earning the same pay as the opposite gender within the same role. However, for the women who feel stuck and do not have a clear progressional route within your workspace, consider seeking a better role outside. If the only reason for their lack of consideration is because you're a woman, do believe they're losing a great candidate for the position, and move forward with your career advancement in confidence.


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