Though women make up a large majority of the fashion industry—Clean Clothes Campaign estimates 80 percent of garment workers are female—they’re often not represented in leadership.
Vertically-integrated denim company Artistic Milliners has been dedicated to closing this gap since it launched 70 years ago. Today, it has a strong female leadership team—women make up half of its board—and its managing director Murtaza Ahmed has been recognized by both the United Nations (UN) and the Financial Times for his efforts to promote gender equality.
Women throughout the company spoke at a Kingpins24 panel on Friday and highlighted some of the company’s continuing initiatives to give a voice to garment workers and put others on a track to leadership.
One of the company’s newest initiatives is the “Awesome” program—named after a combination of Artistic Milliners, women empowerment, solidarity and mentoring—which intends to support women throughout the denim industry and serve as a system for mentorship. According to Ebru Ozaydin, the company’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, the program’s vision is essentially women supporting women.
“The most important thing for me is to be a good role model,” she said. “As mothers, sisters and grandmothers of young girls, we want to be a role model. This year is the year of gender equality.”
Syeda Faiza Jamil, the company’s general manager of corporate responsibility and communications, explained the importance of investing in women’s empowerment training programs, noting that gender equality can only happen if everyone is educated.
Jamil detailed some of the women’s empowerment programs within the company, including employee training on subjects such as reading and writing, basic math, financial intelligence (focusing on areas like budgeting, investments and insurance policies) and women’s health.
The company also works with partners to continue their women’s empowerment efforts, including Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) program, which gives female workers access to life skills and enhanced technical skills trainings.
Jamil noted that these types of programs are crucial to amplifying women’s voices throughout the denim supply chain.
“It’s an exciting thing for them because ironically, nobody has ever asked them what they want in life or what their aspirations are,” she said “Many of them do have a lot of aspirations related to their family, their kids and themselves.”