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International Women’s Day Focuses on a more equal future

The AFC is committed to championing equality within the fashion industry and paving the way for a more equitable future.

by Sarah McLean

8 March 2024

Our industry employs over 489,000 people, with women making up a significant 77% of our workforce. Despite our presence and substantial contribution of $27.2 billion to the economy, our industry still grapples with equality challenges, particularly the underrepresentation of women in higher-paid executive roles.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it serves as a moment to reflect on the ongoing journey towards gender equality and how this year’s theme, “Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress can effect change in our industry:

Gender Pay Gap

Most recently, the WGEA Gender Pay Gap Report shed light on the ongoing disparity in pay between men and women. Australia’s total remuneration average gender pay gap stands at 21.7%, translating to women earning just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Despite our industry boasting a 77% female workforce, the underrepresentation of women in high-level executive positions remains a concerning reality, contradicting the industry's dedication to its predominantly female clientele.

However, amidst these challenges, it's inspiring to see a number of AFC Members, including Country Road, Camilla & Marc, Zimmermann, and The Iconic, who are at the forefront of this issue. Their commitment to pay equity, as highlighted in the report, is encouraging to see. 

Invest in Women: Funding the Future Workforce & Building Jobs

There are many factors to the current state of play in our industry and action from both business and government is essential. In our recent 2024/2025 Pre-Budget Submission to the federal government, we emphasise the urgent need for targeted funding to address skill gaps and workforce shortages.

This involves creating tailored educational and career pathways specifically designed to meet the evolving needs of Australia's female workforce. It's a crucial step toward bolstering economic security and fostering greater gender diversity in leadership roles. 

Invest in Women: Empower Female Leadership

We encourage businesses to see investing in women not just as a moral duty, but as a strategic move to enhance equality in leadership and decision-making roles. This involves prioritising transparent hiring and promotion practices, ensuring equal access to development opportunities, supporting work-life balance, and championing diversity in leadership within our industry. 

A New National Strategy

At the same time, we applaud the introduction of the 'Working for Women' national strategy by the federal Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher. This thorough initiative delineates essential focus areas aimed at improving women's welfare, notably including a vital pledge to provide superannuation coverage for Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave.

In the context of the manufacturing sector, transparency and accountability across supply chains are paramount for safeguarding the safety and human rights of all individuals involved, particularly women in pivotal roles such as pattern makers, machinists, and customer-facing positions.

By empowering and advancing women in leadership, we unlock the full potential of our workforce and pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future.  We are proud to be leading the key AFCs initiatives to achieve this.

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