Wednesday 8 March 2017

international women's day

Today I'm celebrating International Women's Day not by going on strike, but by spreading the news about women around the world who would really benefit from a fairer fashion industry.

Did you know that around 85% of all garment workers are women?*

Image c/o Kowtow

The majority of workers killed in the deadly Rana Plaza collapse were women, and most homeworkers are also women - typically sewing at home while also raising children. There have been reports of some garment factories requiring female employees to take oral contraceptives to guarantee their workforce, and according to the ILO, there is a significant wage gap in Asia's textile trade (where most of our clothing is currently produced), with two of the highest being Pakistan and India where women earn 48% and 39% less than men, respectively.**

Throughout the rag trade women hold overwhelmingly more positions than men though, like other industries, it's common to find men atop the highest paid list. According to Forbes, the 10 wealthiest people in fashion are all men, including the world's second richest person, Amancio Ortega, who owns Zara.

The World Economic Forum does not expect the gender pay gap to close until 2186 if current trends are maintained. I don't know about you, but the idea of equal pay for equal work is fairly elementary. The issue of parity is one that needs our full attention, both at home and abroad, and fashion industry is a prime target for improvement.

So what can you do to embrace this year's International Women's Day theme of #BeBoldForChange?

  • You can demand fair treatment and gender parity (in terms of pay and opportunity) from the brands you buy. Fashion Revolution Week is coming up next month, which is a great opportunity to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes? But why wait until then? Contact your favourite fashion label today to talk about the women in their business.
  • Support labels that are already choosing producers that empower females. Australian labels Carlie Ballard and Cloth & Co are two of my favourites that work with women in India to create beautiful, handwoven garments, and give women opportunities not often found in other workshops/factories (like the female tailor in the workshop that makes Ballard's pieces!). 
  • Head over to the Project Just website and download the Good On You app to see how your favourite brands rank on ethics. Though they don't always go into the level of detail of gender pay, it's a start, and you'll discover some great labels that are well on the way to being safer, cleaner and fairer places to work.

However you acknowledge International Women's Day, let's support one another today. Only by joining forces and working together toward a common goal can we hope to smash that 2186 estimate and create a better world for all women and girls.


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*From The True Cost. These statistics are notoriously difficult to pin down because of the unregulated and undocumented nature of many clothing factories.
** This is a very complex subject, and I have pulled out the two highest, but I urge you to read the report to get a fuller understanding of how issues of marital status, education, and age all play a part in this gap.

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