Fashion Industry and Gender Disparity

Men Dominating the Fashion Industry

Men have dominated many areas of the economy for many years, causing women to struggle and look as a minority group when it comes to job roles. Men have dominated the fashion sectors, as they have many other industries, leaving women with a small percentage of the entire workforce. Despite the fact that women constitute the vast majority of art customers, female designers are outnumbered by their male counterparts. The gender disparity in the fashion business is caused by the majority of male designers who focus on designing womenswear, competing with the few female designers. In early 2016, actresses, activists, and global ambassadors collaborated to campaign and raise awareness on the role of gender eradicating inequality and bringing success to the fashion industry. According to Bielby (2009), approximately forty percent (40%) of fashion designers are females while the remaining 60% are males. Moreover, the percentage of female in the fashion industry ranges from 40% to 43% in many countries other than United States of America thereby indicating the presence of gender inequality issues in the fashion sector across the world (Pettinger, 2004). Currently, the number of female designers are significantly increasing although the gender gap is still wide.

Increasing Female Designers among Emerging Brands

Emerging brands are currently having higher proportion of female designers with the number of female designers. For instance, in London and New York, where the fashion week schedules have skewed to younger and emerging brands, the number of female designers have increased despite the existing gender gaps in the industry (Rantisi, 2014). However, Paris and Milan on the other hand are still considered the most traditional fashion weeks thereby experiencing lowest proportion of female designers. Therefore, gender diversity and equality is still a serious concern in the fashion industry.

Women as a Minority Group in the Industry

Women are still being viewed as a minority group in the industry. It’s unfortunate that even the fashion houses that had women contribution of the last years have slowly been dominated by women. A study by Pettinger, (2004) reveals that women are less represented amongst the most established fashion houses.

Reasons for Gender Disparity in the Fashion Industry

Fashion industry is seen as superficial based on misunderstanding of the reality. Fashion affects people’s lives either directly or indirectly. Since everything in the industry is felt by women and men, fashion industry concentrates on the gender gap that exist between men and females.

Imbalanced workforce- Just like other industries, fashion industry is not immune to imbalances in the workforce. Although many positions in the industry are filled by women, it’s not obvious that they hold the key and strategic positions. In fact, most prestigious brands are led by men.

Fashion dictates appearance- Fashion tends to dictate how people should dress and appear. According to Bielby (2009), the ideas of feminism and gender parity are perpetuated through fashion and design. Based on the relationship between fashion and other aspects of feminism, it can be argued that fashion reinforced the view that women are linked to their appearance. Moreover, fashion controls our perception towards the world thereby making us consumed the contents of fashion without questions.

Women are treated as objects- Fashion treats women as objects thereby making them the center of attention and male desire. Issues like sexual abuses and harassments have been linked to the view of women as objects of male desire. Johnson, Lennon & Rudd (2014) explain that about 70% of female workers in the fashion industry report cases of work related sexual harassments.

Solutions for Gender Disparity in the Fashion Industry

Addressing the issue of male domination of the fashion industry can be solved by keeping women very active. This will entail taking risks, being vocal, and standing for the rights. The notion created by fashion that women are less artistic and more of object of desire to men must be stopped in order to enable women take up the leadership positions in the leading fashion and design companies. As has been witnessed in the recent past, the more female designers should go for the top and challenging positions in the industry (Grunig, Hon & Toth, 2013). Such moves will motivate the upcoming female designers and eventually make them better placed in a male dominated industry.


Gender equality is a goal that every industry would want to achieve in the 21st century. Although many industries try to balance their workforce in terms of gender, achieving equality is still a challenge. Just like many other sectors, the fashion industry have been dominated by men. Over the recent years, many female designers have come out to address the issue although these designers are still outnumbered. Issues like workforce imbalance, treatment of women as object of sexual desire, and the fact that fashion dictates how women dress, appear, and their perception are some of the reasons why gender disparity in the fashion industry still exists. The society must change their perception and notion towards women and stop judging them by their appearance. Moreover, women must also stand up and fight for their space.


Bielby, D. D. (2009). Gender inequality in culture industries: Women and men writers in film and television. Sociologie du travail, 51(2), 237-252.

Grunig, L. A., Hon, L. C., & Toth, E. L. (2013). Women in public relations: How gender influences practice. Routledge.

Johnson, K., Lennon, S. J., & Rudd, N. (2014). Dress, body and self: Research in the social psychology of dress. Fashion and Textiles, 1(1), 20.

Pettinger, L. (2004). Brand culture and branded workers: Service work and aesthetic labour in fashion retail. Consumption Markets & Culture, 7(2), 165-184.

Rantisi, N. M. (2014). Gendering fashion, fashioning fur: on the (re) production of a gendered labor market within a craft industry in transition. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(2), 223-239.

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