‘Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions’ — International Women’s Day Interview
For over a hundred years, International Women’s Day has been celebrated on the 8th of March. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the progress made concerning women's rights worldwide. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to keep working towards gender equality worldwide.
Despite progress over the last century, gender inequality is still a serious issue. It affects every woman, regardless of background or country. This year’s #BreakTheBias theme aims to shine a light on this. It aims to create an inclusive world where our differences are valued and celebrated instead of judged and condemned.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we got together with Cellina and Becky from the Accent team to discuss the importance of IWD. We also spoke about the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender parity and their advice for women entering the fashion industry.
Before we jump into the questions, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Cellina: Hey there, I’m Cellina McIntyre, the Womenswear and Childrenswear Buyer at Accent. I’ve worked in fashion for over ten years for brands like Liberty London and Harvey Nichols across womenswear, shoes and men’s accessories.
Becky: Hi! I’m Becky Schneider, I’m Brand Director at Accent, and I’ve also got over ten years experience in fashion. I've worked in a range of roles over the years for both Accent and previously J Brand.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
Cellina: Around the world, women continue to face a wide-ranging number of challenges within society. Whether this is a lack of economic security or independence, reduced access to education, at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse or underrepresentation in major societal decision-making processes.
It’s important to continue these discussions and acknowledge there is still a huge amount of work to be done before equality is achieved globally. It’s also just as important to celebrate the success stories — the inspirational people making real, progressive change and opening the dialogue for the next steps.
Becky: Yeah, one hundred per cent. If you look at the UK, women have only had the right to vote and work within the last century, which in the scheme of things, is not a very long time. It's important we identify and celebrate the increasing visibility of women’s achievements and remind ourselves that some women in the world are still fighting for the right to their freedom.
International Women’s Day is a continual reminder to support each other as women and strive for equality in a traditionally patriarchal society where men have had a significant head start.
Have you ever faced any career challenges because you’re a woman?
Becky: I think the fashion industry is the exception to the norm. With it being a highly female-orientated sector, it’s a great place for women to progress in their careers with less of the gender prejudices that they may face in other industries.
I’ve personally been very lucky and haven’t had any negative experiences in the workplace due to my gender. I have always worked under strong female leaders that encouraged my personal growth and progression.
Cellina: As Becky said, working in a more female-dominated industry comes with a range of positives and negatives. I have been lucky enough to work with several inspiring and supportive women and men who value working together and engaging as a team; however, I am aware that there can develop a culture where women are expected to take on the majority of the “admin” burden and men are not expected to be as conscientious, which I believe does a disservice to both genders.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing women today?
Becky: There are so many issues that women face across the globe today, but I think in regards to the UK workplace, there is still more support needed for women with children who are the main caregivers in their households.
Childcare is extremely expensive, and they may find themselves having to reduce work hours/work flexitime in order to care for their children. This, in turn, may stunt their opportunities to progress to more senior roles with higher salaries and further increase the pay gap between men's and women’s wages.
Cellina: Yeah, I completely agree. There are so many examples around the world of ways in which women are denied basic autonomy, whether this is of their body, education, finances or political rights, and it is the mentality behind the enforcement of these forms of control that I find most concerning.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self about being a woman in the fashion industry?
Becky: Good question! I’d have to say don’t be afraid to ask questions. We were all beginners at some point, and the more you learn and understand how the business works from the bottom up and across the different departments, the easier it is to make well-rounded decisions.
Cellina: Pretty similar to Becky’s point, but I’d say that it’s OK if you don’t always know what you’re doing; most people don’t.
Who is your all-time favourite female fashion icon?
Cellina: There’s so many to choose from. I’ve always loved the classic simplicity of Audrey Hepburn’s style evolving from her close relationship with Hubert de Givenchy. However, these days, I find myself most inspired by contemporary artists such as FKA Twigs and Solange, who use their style to constantly move sartorial and cultural conversations forward.
Becky: Good choices! I’ve always loved Olivia Palermo’s style; she hits the fine balance between classic and contemporary. She has a knack for combining seasonal pieces with bold and trendy items to effortlessly produce her iconic chic yet down-to-earth style.
You’re having a dinner party, and you can invite any three women from any time. Who do you invite?
Becky: Only three? Wow, give me a sec.
I’d pick Jane Fonda, Vivienne Westwood, Jane Austen. I’d ask them: What drove you to fight against the mainstream way of thinking? And what were the biggest challenges you faced while doing this?
Cellina: Picking just three is tough! I think I’d pick Nina Simone, Amrita Sher-Gil, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Oh, and I’d like to add my mum as well!
Championing Female Designers
At Accent, we recognise talented women in fashion, whether by supporting the women on our team like Becky and Cellina or by championing the work of female designers like Holland Cooper and Olivia Rubin.Explore our brands today to find a female fashion designer you can champion. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with fashion news, trends and interviews from industry leaders.