Close up of a woman's high heeled shoe, stepping forcefully on a glass runway, shard of glass shooting upwards from the impact.

Breaking Through the Glass Runway

Breaking Through the Glass Runway

Despite women being the primary supporters of the fashion industry, and seemingly dominating the field, they struggle to break past the glass runway. The term “glass runway” refers to the gender inequality that persists within the fashion industry. Even though women make up the majority in the fashion industry, the top executive positions in well-known fashion houses and womenswear brands are predominantly men. Various factors play into the gender inequality plaguing the fashion industry, but one of the main reasons is that women have fewer mentors and less clarity on how to grow their career compared to men. 

Women make up the majority of entry-level jobs in the fashion industry and have more ambition than men by 17% in that stage of their career. However, by the middle of their career women are less likely than men to aspire for a top-executive position. One reason for this is that many women have difficulty asking for promotions, often finding the conversation uncomfortable. In addition, social norms such as the gender wage gap can lower the expectations and hopes of even the most ambitious women. They can make some women feel lucky with their current employment status as is rather than pushing for a promotion. Another large issue is the lack of clarity women receive on how to advance in their careers. It can be difficult to assess whether the work being done actually aligns with their job description if there are never any concrete expectations given to them. Women are also being given fewer chances of receiving a promotion without asking for one compared to men. A survey done by Glamour and the CFDA shows that women are 72% less likely than men to be chosen for a promotion at the management level without asking.

The scarcity of female mentorship also plays a big role in this issue as most promotions are given by, or received by the aid of, superiors. Men are more likely to receive feedback by their superiors on how to advance in their careers compared to women. This can make it challenging for women to be offered advice on their career path without being explicit and proactive about asking for it. Mentorship programs for female employees is a highly beneficial option that companies could provide. An increase in female mentorship would allow for women to receive more guidance by their superiors and build confidence in their work. However, this would require there to be women working in high-level positions that would be able to offer such guidance. 

The best solution is for the fashion industry to be aware of the gender inequality in the industry and be proactive in addressing the problem. There are many ambitious women who have high aspirations for their careers. Companies can improve by listening to their female employees and working with them to create a better and more fair environment for the workplace.