An unlikely gender pay-gap

In a society where women struggle to get paid equally for the same jobs as men, it seems as though the modelling industry might be the one place where the tables are turned. Last week it was announced by top modelling agency Premier that male models can earn up to 75% less than female models. Whilst Gisele Bündchen as the highest earning female model pulled in £34 million last year, her male counterpart Sean O’Pry made less than 5% of this, earning £1.5 million. This statistic isn’t only reflective of those at the top of the game either – equality is lacking and male models are suffering as a result.

The recent increase in men trying to create a career in this industry is one reason the rates offered are so low. Inundated with choice, designers are able to find models wiling to walk the catwalk for free, or for considerably less than their female counterparts. Whilst this is being used as an excuse, along with the argument that fashion is more female orientated, this plain lack of equality cannot be justified, especially considering the industry’s recent favouring of androgynous modelling.  Wage inequality is illegal, and as there is much attention given to the injustice of men earning more than women, the discrimination shown here to male models is often overlooked.

The work of male models is no less taxing than females, with strong exercise regimes and diet plans implemented on top models. The pressure to be a certain shape is as much an issue to men as it is to women in the industry. Davis Gandy once reported that he was told he needed to be skinnier, and that his legs should be thinner too.

Elizabeth Rose, as manager of male models at Premier, argues that ‘it’s unfair for men [and] I wouldn’t say it’s female empowerment at all.’ Yet the report from Premier also saw how male modelling careers had a greater longevity, highlighting how female beauty is still being emphasised as being young and ‘over’ quickly.

Looking beyond the fashion industry, the bottom line is that men and women should be paid the same for completing the same jobs. Designers will take advantage of the fact that men are willing to work for less, but equality works both ways, and it’s about time the fashion industry noticed that.

Lydia Varney

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