Gender Inequality in the Media & Fashion Roundtable’s Inclusion Rider By Lucy Siers

Gender Inequality in the Media & Fashion Roundtable’s Inclusion Rider By Lucy Siers

The European Journalism Observatory (EJO) recently analysed the gender diversity in bylines across 11 different European countries. The result echoed the gender imbalances across all creative industries, with women continually falling second behind men.

The EJO Survey

The study consisted of researchers analysing bylines of stories in the selected countries to determine who the writer was and who was pictured in the accompanying images. The 11 countries included in the study were the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

The results found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that men formed the majority of authors. Overall, the statistics looked like this:

·      41% of the stories were written by men, 23% by women

·      43% of pictures featured just men, with 15% featuring only women.

Un-bylined/agency articles make up this balance.

The Big Players

Germany and Italy were the 2 countries with the largest gender imbalance. In Germany female authors wrote only 16% of bylines, but males wrote 58%. Italy saw the largest percentage of male bylines with 63%, and 21% female.

Portugal was the only exception to male editorial supremacy, of the 11 countries. Surveyed, with 31% female bylines, and 20% male. However, here 49% of the images used featured only men, and 12% featured only women.

For more information on how the EJO conducted their study, click here.

The Root of The Problem

There has been blame placed on the unsociable hours of the job, putting a strain on families. Professor Suzanne Franks, Head of Department of Journalism at London’s City University hopes that by bringing these gender biases to the forefront again, “we will see concerted efforts for change” to this long-standing issue.

Susanne Klingner, a German journalist with significant experience in the field of gender equality, commented on Germany’s poor performance in the study with the root lying in the fact that “95% of German newspapers are led by men.” Klingner argues that this leads to biased favouring towards young, white, male reporters and not a fair judgement on the performance of the individual. Klinger comments that “many young women remain unseen, no matter how talented they are.” Klinger further criticises the German papers for believing that being progressive only concerns the stories that are being reported, “but not necessarily being a progressive company”.

So, just like all diversity issues within the creative industry, progressive change can only take shape if the root of the problem, which lies within the boardrooms, is addressed. A more diverse and equal boardroom will translate into a more diverse and equal company.

How Did The UK Fare?

Focussing on how the UK faired in the study, the statistics of the 4 news outlets seemed to follow the trend set by the rest of Europe.

1.    The Sun, a popular tabloid newspaper

·      Male reporters dominate at 40%

·      Women only wrote 12% of the articles

·      The high proportion of women featuring alone in pictures (35%), compared to 43% of men, reflects the number of images of scantly dressed women or women being berated for their appearance

2.    The Daily Telegraph, a broadsheet

·      Higher number of female bylines (33.5%), than male (28%)

3.    UK editions of Buzzfeed & the International Business Times – both digital-born news sites

·      Buzzfeed had more female writers (51%), than male (44%)

·      IBT was male dominated, with 68.5% male and 24% female

According to UCAS, more women attended journalism school on a full-time undergraduate basis than men (2007-2014). Therefore, these statistics illuminate the gender inequality issues at the root of the industry.

The Gender Pay Gap: An Unsurprising Consequence

An unsurprising consequence of this male dominated profession is the gender pay gap issue.

The Daily Telegraph, despite faring well in the study, later faltered when their own gender pay gap was revealed as being the highest of any UK newspaper or broadcaster at the time - despite the fact that they criticised the BBC’s pay gap during the period that the EJO survey was taking place. The Independent reported that a 2018 audit showed that the BBC has a gender pay gap of 9.3%. The 2017 list of the highest paid BBC presenters saw Chris Evans topping the list at £2m, with the highest paid woman being Claudia Winkleman at £450,000 - £499,000. Click here to read what Fashion Revolution wrote about creative pay equality back in February.

It was revealed that women were being paid 35% less than men at the Telegraph Media Group (TMG). On their website, TMG said “we have much to do,” and blamed the unacceptable pay report on the “lack of female representation at the most senior levels”. This therefore echoes the need for a more diverse central core to the industry, in order to see equality filtering down throughout the chain.

Other examples of shocking gender pay gap statistics within journalism include The Financial Times with a 19.4% difference between pay to male and female staff. The Guardian reported a 12.1% difference and The Economist with a high 29.5%.

At what cost are these gender inequalities to our business growth? The Office of National Statistics revealed in the Spring that the gender pay gap has risen The median aggregate figure of 18.4% is up from 18.2% last year. costing the UK economy £150bn a year and translating as women working 2 months of every year for free, comparable to men. The Fawcett Society Chief Executive said of this in October last year:

“This is a static picture on pay inequality. At current rates of change we will never close the gender pay gap. This shocking lack of progress means without significant action women starting work today and in decades to come will spend their entire working lives earning less than men. It’s a loss they can’t afford and it’s a missed opportunity for our economy. Improving our performance on gender equality in the workplace could increase GDP by £150 billion.” 

How Does This Translate in The Fashion Industry?

Popular consumer perception of the fashion industry is that it is predominately female based, considering that the industry largely targets women. However, at the top of the industry chain lie boardrooms dominated by men.

‘The Glass Runway’, a recent survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, found that a female CEO runs only 14% of leading womenswear brands. As shocking as this statistic may be, it is not due to lacking female talent in the industry. The study revealed that men more often find promotions coming their way, as opposed to their more ambitious female counterparts. It could be argued as ridiculous to have a predominately male body of people who are attempting to target the female population. Conde Nast reported some of the highest mean gender pay gap figures in the UK media, sitting at an astounding 36.9% difference. This is despite 74% of Conde Nast employees being women. This lack of gender diversity at the top of the food chain is just the start of the diversity issue within fashion.

Fashion Roundtable’s event this week on Body Image and Identity Politics, saw a diverse panel of industry experts discussing the fundamental issue of how under-representative the fashion industry is, compared with the wide range of its consumers. Academic, TV presenter and writer, Caryn Franklin MBE (@Caryn_Franklin) highlighted that “the more diverse the perspective of the panel, the more diverse the output. We need to recognise the power of diversity because a diverse vision can equal profit”. Vlogger and TV Presenter, Grace Victory (@gracefvictory) echoed Franklin, arguing “the people at the top need to be the ones to change”.

In a market where the average UK woman is a size 16, yet only 1.13% of models across all 4 key international catwalks were plus size, where according to the Extra Costs Commission, 75% of disabled customers, have left a shop because of poor service of access, at a risk to loss of earnings of £420m a week by British retailers, we have to assess what is being done to meet the needs of the market. Especially in light of the recent news of shop closures across high street stalwarts, such as House of Fraser and Marks and Spencer, and changes to brand identity by John Lewis/Waitrose.

At our Body Image and Identity Politics event, model  Kelly Knox (@ItsKellyKnox) stated that “diversity is not a trend, it is the NOW!” She called on the industry to wake up, as not only to address inclusion, but also as it is good for business, exactly as Fashion Roundtable have been advocating across our social media. “The purple £, is the largest untapped market in the UK brands are missing £249bn because they don’t market to disabled customers.” Read Kelly’s article for The Huffington Post on this topic here.

Fashion Roundtable advocate an inclusion rider for the industry: to connect with our audience, our community and support a more representative industry which reflects better thought through fashion design back out our consumers.

Not only does fashion and the entire creative industries sector have to address structural inequities, seeking to place women in the board rooms and across all levels of a company, but also fashion has to address its wider representation narrative. We can ride high on the success of Virgil Abloh’s Pride catwalk brilliance at Louis Vuitton Homme’s recent catwalk show, but his success is just one aspect of our inclusion rider: one gay POC at a major Paris fashion house, is not a sea change. It’s one person with the world watching. For true transparency across the talent pipeline, the issues of education cost, background, identity, class, gender and ethnic background, as well as accessibility and let’s not forget maternity leave and the pay deficit to working mothers until the end of their careers, for choosing to have children, all have to be addressed, and fast.

Imagine a fashion industry where inclusion was the core of its work ethic: it would not only create appeal to their target markets with more exciting offers, as our data shows, it would generate more business returns.

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