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Equal pay day was first established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equality to highlight the constant struggle women face when it comes to the gender pay gap. For the second year in a row, UK companies, with more than 250 employees, provided a snapshot of their gender pay gap data. The report, once again, exposed an unfavourable trend: the predominantly female staffed and female-focused industry, are amid the worst offenders in the country when it comes to paying women the same as men.
Within the fashion industry, the average gender pay gap between male and female employees ranges from 17.6% to 18.3%, which is a huge disparity between those completing the same roles. Drapers, following the reveal of the gender pay gap data, has compiled a comprehensive chart outlining how these large fashion businesses have performed.
2018 President and Trustee at Bloom UK, Gina Hood, explains that women dominate the junior ranks of businesses, but are less present as they move into senior positions. "There are many theories as to why this is," explains Hood. "Some highlight how workplace culture still is founded on the idea of a family where one parent works, and the other doesn't, meaning women who want to have children aren't given the environment in which to do so and still progress in their careers. Others call out behavioural biases, recruitment systems and networking opportunities that work against women: people hiring in their own image, men being seen as natural leaders and promotion material and women being expected to take on undervalued and low-paid work."
I conducted an online survey with 100 young women, and the results point favourably to the gender pay gap being one of the defining factors as to why women are postponing motherhood. The traditional 'family first' mindset is no longer a priority in young women's lives as the survey results show that the majority chose 'career' over 'children'. The survey also highlights the lack of confidence working women have towards their job environment to have children and still advance in their careers.
In the fashion industry, average pay reflects on the roles women and men hold at many companies. As Hood explained, large numbers of women are often employed in sales positions at stores, and if you look at the boards of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH), the French multinational luxury goods conglomerate, for example, so much of the power is concentrated by men and that is where the big salaries are.
Fashion blogger Katie Upton, who is also the editor-in-chief of the style department for Royist, a luxury lifestyle magazine, is positive that although to some extent, we live in a patriarchal society, our societal imbalances can be eradicated. "Instead of filling the media with regressive statements of women's anger, more action should be taken, holding people and companies to account," Upton explains. She believes that having no pay gap is crucial to both genders, and to "punish" women by diminishing levels of pay because of maternity leave is an "absurd concept". Women should be given the same opportunities to progress as men. Besides, studies have also shown that companies with a more gender-balanced workforce at senior positions tend to be more successful.
Pay gap reporting is a name and shame concept that can only positively abolish the gender pay gap. 'Naming' comes with accountability, and 'shaming' forces the named companies to actually take responsibility. According to Drapers' pay gap data chart, even 'female empowering' online fashion retailer, Missguided is guilty of paying their female employees an alarming 55p to a male employee's £1.
Fashion writer and co-host of Women In Fashion radio, Bella Gladman explained that there needs to be a lot more transparency when it comes to the topic of money. However, it's difficult, especially in fashion, to find out if females are paid the same as males because the industry is so dominated by women. "In certain jobs, it's actually written into your contract that you shouldn't discuss your salaries at all," explained Gladman. "Most of the male writers I know are freelancers so, in terms of finding out their salary, it's complicated to judge."
Even though pay gap reporting has proven to improve the gap between male and female's pay, it is shown in 2019's data charts that half of the employers are still in favour of men. Gladman believes that it's taken so long for equal pay to be possible because there has been a "real reluctance" to talk about money. " It's considered something that is taboo and undignified to talk about, but money obviously makes such an impact on people's lives," she explained. "It can be such a source of shame for people that if we just opened up a little bit more, people would be able to know how much they're worth. I think that would be the first step in working towards equal pay. And of course, employers should just look at their salaries and just pay women more!"
It's essential in every industry that the pay gap should be equal across both genders, however putting our focus on the fashion industry should be self-explanatory, it's a space for self-expression. It is an industry that is primarily aimed at women, and also prides itself on equality being a focal point and the breaking of boundaries in pursuing this goal. As Gladman explained: "If someone said that they think the gender pay gap is a feminist myth, I'd say: What have you got against feminism, because it's not about taking anything away from anyone, it's about giving people more opportunities." It is important to recognise that there has been progress, but there is still so much we can improve on to ensure that the gender pay gap is eradicated.
Here's a short clip from my interview with Bella Gladman: