From garment sewer to buyer, the present day fashion industry is not only hurting women, but it’s also hurting entire communities, countries, and even the global economy.
Gender equity is a problem from the garment-sewing workers themselves, all the way up to fashion company chief executives. Though it’s hard to estimate exactly, garment workers make up 60 to 75 million individuals worldwide, three quarters of whom are women. Men make up the vast majority of managerial factory positions. But it doesn’t end there. The problem spans the entire industry from top to bottom.
Somehow just 14% of the top 50 fashion brands are run by women, even though women make up half of the population, spend three times more on clothing than men, and make up virtually 100% of women’s fashion customers, Forbes states.
“That results in marginalizing women who fall outside of it’s archaic definitions around shape, race and age,” retail strategist, Katie Smith, told Forbes. She also says that the huge majority of women fall outside that definition, forcing women to live and dress in some man’s construct of what a woman should be.
Are we really trying to fit into this gross and outdated perception of women over what we can look like, what we can wear, whether unwanted harassment (and worse) are caused by our clothing choices….(?!)
Ok, here are some harsh statistics - this time about the garment sewers. Note that this information was taken pre-covid19 from a 2010 study by the London based charity, War on Want. In the study, 988 women workers in Bangladesh were interviewed; out of which, 86% were between 18 and 32 years old (note that factory managers do not like to hire older workers because of productivity stereotypes).
When women are income earners, there is a multiplier effect on societies. Women invest 90% of their income back into their families and communities….. “When women flourish, so do societies,” the investment organization, Calvert Impact Capital states. This increases women’s ability to purchase nutritious foods, educate themselves and their children, gain access to healthcare, and on and on.
“Put simply, investing in women is just smart economics,” summarizes Calvert Impact Capital.
“Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy,” states Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank.
The industry is worth $2.4 trillion. In fact, it would be the world’s 7th largest economy if ranked alongside individual countries’ gross domestic products, Medium’s Anika Rahman reports.
Paying women a fair wage would increase the retail cost of garments by only 1%, reports What She Makes, an Oxfam campaign.
Remember that statistic about women giving 90% of their earnings back to their communities?
Think of the implications if we paid $1 more for a $100 dress? There would be far less poverty, better education, more informed civil society. Even in 1920, a Ghanaian scholar named James Emman Aggrey saw this fact, saying, “If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”
Now take NOVAA co-founder, Bridget Moran’s vision, “I want to change the world through fashion,” and remember that the industry is worth $2.4 trillion… It’s not so hard to think Bridget’s vision is incredibly possible, is it?
Women’s empowerment has been part of NOVAA’s story since day one. Afterall, NOVAA is a women-owned business. And they’re investing in female garment workers, catering to a female clientele, and collaborating with inspiring “Hype Girls'' in their community.
NOVAA’s vision is constantly expanding. They seek to offer women amazing clothing in all shapes, sizes, and styles. When they realized that ethically-sourced extended-size clothing (that meets their standards) is not really available, they knew they had to take matters into their own hands.
“If the reality we want doesn’t exist, we should just create it,” NOVAA Co-founder Becky Jackson said.
NOVAA’s Hype Girl features are one of my personal favorite ways in which NOVAA is breaking through the industry bullshit. Alright, full disclosure, I write these. In doing so, I get to work with co-founders, Bridget & Becky, and each of these fantastic women to create powerful and inspiring content.
Every woman is worth highlighting, no matter what they do, big or small. Whether you are an Olympic power lifter, a memoirist overcoming anxiety, a woman who loves beer, a business owner, or a blogger - your story matters.
Everyone feels freer when we, as women, embrace the good, bad, and seemingly ugly things in life. These are in their essence, incredibly beautiful. They make us unique, and help us live by our own rules.
Embracing our imperfections and celebrating our successes helps us to be vulnerable, be powerful, and reach for what we didn’t think we could achieve. And in doing so, we find out we can escape the stereotypes and limitations of society, and bring to the world a solid 90% of our own unique caring, growing, ass-kicking, and impactful change... at every step.
**All statistics were collected pre-covid19.
Get the latest news you need, straight to your inbox.