Did you know that 80% of all garment workers are female? While women make up the majority of workers at factories, they are vulnerable to low-pay and poor working conditions - as they’re viewed as a source of cheap labour and a way to maximize profits in a competitive global fashion market. These women live in some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Despite their large presence in the garment industry, women are not viewed as equal to their male colleagues. While women make up the majority of low-paying manufacturing positions in the garment industry, the Better Work compliance review report found that 95 percent of supervisor positions in Bangladesh are held by men.
Around 40 percent of workers surveyed in Bangladesh indicated that discrimination affects prospects for promotion for women in the garment sector. Women are largely excluded from certain types of work (such as leadership roles), get paid less than men, receive less education and training than men, are recognized less for their contributions and are more likely to be exploited and harassed in their workplace. Research from CARE International suggests that one in three female garment workers in Cambodia have faced sexual harassment in the workplace.
On April 23, 2013, more than 1,100 workers (mainly female garment workers) were killed in the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Highlighting the horrific and sometimes deadly working conditions that women in the garment industry face. This deadly event was a reminder of how our push for fast fashion globally is not only harming our environment, but also creating unsafe, unethical and dangerous working conditions for women.
We have an opportunity to make a change in the fashion industry with our purchasing power. Our decisions as shoppers, directly affect the empowerment of women and our voices can help to change unsafe and unethical working conditions for women in the garment sector.
Here are three ways we can empower women through ethical fashion:
1. Donate to causes supporting women in the textile industry
CARE International works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. They focus on gender equality believing that you cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. One of the programs CARE International has created, is a program with consortium partners to help more women into supervisory roles in the Bangladesh garment industry.
2. Become a conscious shopper
It is more important than ever that we become conscious about our purchasing and we have the power to demand transparency from brands, and producers. Before you buy, research about the brand and try to find out how their production process works. Where was this made? How was this made? Is it made ethically and fair-trade? Another way to become a conscious shopper is to thrift and shop secondhand. Buying secondhand helps divert clothing from ending up in a landfill and it’s great for the environment as no new materials were used to make the clothing.
At this is willow, we pride ourselves on sourcing all of our fabrics sustainably and ethically. Our clothing is made locally in Toronto and is handcrafted with the environment in mind. Each piece of clothing is made slowly with care and made to last for years.
Shop at and support women run and owned clothing companies
One of the best ways we can empower women in the fashion industry, is by shopping at women owned clothing companies. this is willow is owned and run by Lynda O’Malley, whose goal is to help change the world with her ethically and sustainably produced clothing. We have the chance to empower women, and this starts with supporting women directly.
Creating change in the fashion industry can seem like a daunting task, but if we each take one small step to understand where our clothing comes from, we can use our purchasing power to create a brighter future for the environment and women worldwide.