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I would like to start this blog post by listing the news headlines that have caught my attention recently: “Murder, rape, and abuse in Asia’s factories: the true price of fast fashion”“Violence Against Women Garment Workers Increased During the Pandemic” “Indonesia’s Garment Industry to Combat Gender Inequality and Empower Women Workers” and headlines such as” “Gender: Women Workers Mistreated” are just a few of the things I see. Today, I would like to touch on the importance of gender equality in the fashion industry with information from valuable sources.

First of all, it is a fact that 3rd world countries are often included in the news headlines, and we do not hear much about abuse in other branches of the industry, such as automotive and cement. Even while doing research within the sector, we realize that these news are not covered much. However, I think that I am one of the many people who open and read these news with selective perception, maybe because of being a woman, and I think that we need to raise our voices to stop these news, which we, unfortunately, hear thousands of every year. Thus, I am starting my blog post about being a female employee in the fashion industry.

As Fashion Revolution states in its article, the apparel industry is historically one of the most female-dominated industries in the world, and it has been. Today, more than 70% of garment workers in China are women, compared to 85% in Bangladesh and as high as 90% in Cambodia. For these women, development is closely linked to working conditions. It’s about getting a decent wage, working in dignified conditions, and having basic job security. It’s about getting out of poverty, providing children with an education and becoming more independent, and growing as an individual.

For most garment workers in the South, however, the truth is far from that. Despite producing for some of the world’s most profitable companies, they work in dire conditions on poverty wages and have to work massive amounts of overtime. The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh (the world’s second-largest exporter of garments) is 5,300 taka (£45/€62) per month, far from the 8,900 taka (£75/€104) needed to cover one worker. it is far from the basic needs of the worker and even from a living wage. Many garment workers work 60 to 140 hours a week overtime, and non-payment of overtime is very common. Health and safety are often neglected, workers are not given a break, and abuses are common, to name a few issues in the industry.

According to the news of the Clean Clothes Campaign, gender discrimination runs deep in all countries where clothing is currently produced. Women are frequently subjected to verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment. They also work late at night on their way home from work for fear of being attacked or raped.

Indonesian female employees report that “girls at the factory are harassed by male managers. They come at girls, call them into their offices, whisper in their ears, touch them, bribe them with money, and threaten to fire them if they don’t have sex.”

Women also face discrimination when they decide to start or have already started a family. In some garment factories, female applicants are asked whether they are married or plan to have children. Some employers only hire unmarried women who have no children, and some have each woman sign a statement that they agree not to have children during their working time. Mandatory tests are very common during the recruitment phase. There is evidence that pregnant women or those who refuse to be tested are not recruited. Women who become pregnant while in employment may try to hide it, often leading to birth defects and other childcare problems. Harassment faced by pregnant workers includes more difficult tasks such as verbal abuse, higher production quotas, longer working hours, and shifts that require standing rather than sitting.

In addition, if we come to the situation in Turkey, it turns out that women are also subjected to certain verbal or physical pressures, both by the same sex and by the opposite sex, with the imposition of moral norms. Başak Can’s article titled “The gendered workplaces of women garment workers in Istanbul” contains the following statements in the interesting introduction of the article: The feminization of the workforce, the increasing participation of women in the labor market, the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services reflecting profound structural transformations at the global level. It is a layered process. An important layer is the globalization of production, which has led to the emergence of new industrial zones in low- and middle-income countries under increasing competitive pressure.

Scientific studies of global factories in low- and middle-income countries point to a proliferation of discourses on the malleability and malleability of female workers. This rhetoric is used as part of a management strategy to attract foreign capital to a country or to discipline the workforce. Research shows that such rhetoric is intended to create an image of docile third-world women” who can be easily recruited and exploited.

Against all these inequalities, Better Work – a collaboration between the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group – brings together all levels of the apparel industry to improve working conditions and increase the competitiveness of apparel businesses. has brought. From the first day of its publication, Better Work contains the data of 3 million workers from 8 clothing manufacturers in the world. According to the data, we see that women working in the clothing industry are 79% today. And we often see them being under 30. Many of them emigrated to start their first official job in a garment factory. Women are employed in unskilled, low-value occupations such as sewing machine operators and production process assistants, while men are more likely to be employed in higher-paying jobs and leadership positions. Due to cultural and gender norms, female workers are frequently subjected to sexual harassment during the hiring and in the workplace and are often discriminated against when it comes to their pay, working conditions, and benefits (including maternity protection and the threat of dismissal, pregnancy status) and promotion.

Barriers to Gender Equality:

Occupational Discrimination: Unfortunately, as in the rest of the world, recruitment and position orientation are carried out according to issues such as physical capacity and gender discrimination in the employment of workers in the textile sector. Employers’ perceptions of women’s and men’s skills and attitudes are affected by stereotypes about the wants, preferences, and abilities of women and men. It is observed that this trend has strengthened in the last two decades, and unfortunately we observe that women are put in the background, especially in areas such as technology.

Gender discrimination in employment: While pregnancy tests and contraception are rarely used as a condition against employment in Better Work country programs, more subtle forms of discrimination based on pregnancy are common. In addition, there are prejudices in Cambodia and Jordan that men are often discriminated against in hiring because of stereotypes, for example, that garment industry work is women’s work and men are more “problem troublemakers”.

Working Hours: Clothing production is often characterized by very long hours, and the excess working hours are an extra burden for women who spend time in their families and communities.

Sexual Harassment: Due to occupational discrimination and incentive systems in factories, sexual harassment is unfortunately common in the global apparel industry. Sexual harassment is largely under-reported due to negative cultural norms, fear of victims, lack of functional reporting mechanisms, and a tendency to view this behavior as “normal.” However, thanks to confidential surveys, Better Work has revealed that an average of 36 percent of the workers it interviewed had been sexually harassed at their factory.

Roles and Positions: Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in supervisory roles relative to their share of total employment in the sector.

Pregnancy-Related Procedures: Most contracts are filled with pregnancy procedures that make women vulnerable. Unfortunately, permits such as pregnancy and breastfeeding permits are not available in most places and countries.

Women in Union Representation: While female workers are increasingly being represented at the factory level, they are still underrepresented. Also, leadership positions in the union confederations and federations are still largely male-dominated. This is partly due to widely accepted gender ideologies, as well as the fact that women are expected to take on most of the childcare responsibilities after returning home, which dissuades them from serving as union representatives.


According to the report “A STITCH IN TIME SAVED NONE: How Fashion Brands Fueled Violence in the Factory and Beyond,” (the traditional adage a “stitch in time saves nine” means: one stitch saves the other nine, so do your job right or The report’s title “a stitch in time saved none” means How Fashion Brands Raised Violence at the Factory and Beyond.)

Women make social and economic contributions, but their contribution remains unnoticed and underestimated, as evidenced by the lack of employer-based protection and public services. Nor is the role of women recognized as the main source of livelihood in their families, such that their waged labor has remained consistently underpaid, pushed into low-paying and precarious jobs, and is more vulnerable to unemployment during times of workforce contraction. Global brands are using this to their advantage to keep labor costs low and production flexible; Therefore, the majority of workers in ready-made clothing production are women.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached apparel manufacturing countries in Asia, the largest manufacturing base for global apparel brands, public health was overtaken by economic imperatives as governments transitioned between full and partial lockdowns between March and May 2020. In countries that rely heavily on a few specific exports, such as in Asia, as in the global apparel industry, many factories in the process of placing orders for global apparel brands have been allowed to operate despite full quarantine. When it came time for governments to unlock it, the industry was among the first to open up.

At the same time, due to government-imposed closures of stores and department stores in the global Nordic consumer countries, global apparel brands unilaterally acted to protect their profits and quickly canceled billions of dollars of production orders. Many major clothing brands initially refused to accept or pay for goods that were already manufactured, resulting in mass layoffs, layoffs, and factory closures. However, due to public pressure, many had to agree to pay, although most brands did not release the funds until later in the year and there was no evidence that these payments were passed on to workers for overdue payments. Brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Bestseller, HEMA, JCPenney, Kohl’s and Walmart have not committed to full payment for completed orders. As these countries began to recover and their economies began to reopen, demand-driven production resumed as the pandemic with low vaccination rates continued in the countries of the global South. Many global apparel brands took advantage of the opportunity to see how much they could squeeze out suppliers by demanding deep discounts resulting in more losses for suppliers, which were passed on to workers.

As for the millions of garment workers and their families whose survival is directly or indirectly dependent on employment in the industry, the economic crisis amid a public health emergency has not meant that workers are simply threatened by the virus; they also faced the threat of losing their jobs. Despite the health risks, many were willing to return to work, and many who had withdrawn to their rural homes returned to production centers at the great personal expense but found no jobs were found as suppliers used a range of tactics to reduce their workforce. Others have returned to work to see their accustomed poor working conditions worsen, production targets higher and wages falling. In both scenarios, unpaid wages for workers during full or partial lockdowns were – and continue to be – a huge problem.