By Navi Ahluwalia
Tuesday 6th February 2018 marked 100 years since women first got the vote in 1928. As we rejoice at how far we’ve come since that fateful day, it’s important to remember just how far we still have to go.
Being a BME woman in this day and age hasn’t been the easiest ride, and though being able to vote is now something we’re all able to do - the challenge does not end there. In so many industries, despite the political landscape, BME women are still repeatedly being left in the dark. Take the fashion industry as an example; as a recent fashion graduate and BME woman, I have found it incredibly difficult to source a graduate job since graduating over 6 months ago. I graduated with a first class honours degree, have completed a total of 5 unpaid internships and have an extensive portfolio of published written work. Yet the variety of interviews I have had always seemed to end the same way; with a ‘sorry, you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’, which naturally means that someone else has filled the role. While this result seems perfectly acceptable given that fashion is an increasingly competitive industry, I have struggled to accept the fact that virtually every non-BME woman from my course at my university and in my year group seems to have found a permanent paid role, while virtually no BME woman I am aware of has.
A range of factors come in to play here; grades, experience, and type of job role to name a few, however I cannot help but think that the lack of BME representation within the fashion industry is because the people in charge simply stick to what they know and underestimate the value of diversity.
As much as women of colour would like to believe that we’re progressing - and believe me, we’d like to - we can’t help but notice the little discrepancies. The lack of BME women as retail store managers, as creative directors, as magazine editors is, even 100 years on, still fairly hard to ignore, especially with it being so prevalent within the creative industries. What’s worse, this lack of representation is not simply frustrating or unfortunate, it is actually detrimental because women of colour from younger generations don’t believe that they can reach these positions without seeing people like them actually be able to achieve it.
With the graduate job market still failing to be inclusive and diverse at this stage, it’s clear that us BME women still have a lot of work to do. By encouraging more women of colour to apply for senior roles, creating new opportunities for ourselves and not being afraid to vocalise this lack of diversity by talking about our own experiences, we can ensure that within another 100 years we won’t have ‘a long way to go’, we’ll simply have come a long way.
Navi Ahluwalia is a Fashion Marketing Graduate and Freelance Writer
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