By Stella Coulter & Cordelia Hare
Part of the FS mission is to highlight the role all students play in determining the future of the fashion industry. What this means is that we have to emulate the change and practices we want to see in the industry at large. Without reflecting on FS as it stands now and actively considering how our own organization is or is not representing the change we wish to see, we have no way of knowing if we need to change, and if so, how to engender that change. Engaging students in deserving philanthropic causes is another part of our mission, but we can’t properly promote the welfare of others if we don’t first ensure the welfare of our guests, our committee, and our immediate community. Fostering diversity and inclusivity is an important part of that welfare, and we intend to create an environment that bolsters these values moving forward. This second half of our transparency report is one of the steps we are taking to remain accountable to our community. Most importantly, transparency cannot exist for “transparency’s sake;”(1) we must take action to ensure a more level playing field.
Because FS only appoints students that attend the University of St Andrews, we are comparing our organisation’s statistics with the University’s statistics. FS has collected the University's breakdown of gender diversity from its Equality Mainstreaming Interim Report (2017 – 2021)(2), published on the 30th of April, 2019. Our first graphic shows our committee over the past four years using the BAME (Black, Asian & Ethnic Minority) standardization that the University enlisted in their own report. The committee members of FS2021 have a higher proportion of BAME students (22.4%) in comparison to the ethnic division of the University of St Andrews population (9.9%). This difference shows the significant efforts made by FS to progressively be more inclusive and create a more diverse environment than that of the university.
FS would like to acknowledge that we find that the acronym BAME or BME oversimplifies and generalizes unique ethnic backgrounds and cultures into one group of underrepresented and disenfranchised peoples. There are also minorities which do not fall under the White or BAME binary created by this standard. Furthermore, this binary enforces a grouping of ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ that others non-white peoples and depicts white people as the norm. So while we use BAME to compare our makeup to the university, we also went a step further to showcase our committee's breakdown according to self-ascribed ethnic backgrounds.
When deciding on models, it was important to us that we not only match, but surpass the University in representation and diversity. While models are chosen based on factors other than aesthetics solely, everyone should be able to see themselves in an environment where ideas of beauty are being constructed and promoted. For Annika Dhawan, one of our newest members to the FS model team, the representation of different ethnic groups codified her confidence in applying this year even though she was originally skeptical that any Fashion Show in St Andrews would accept someone who was Indian.
FS will continue to provide complete transparency to our audience as we see that is the most effective way of helping us progress in a positive way. We aim to continue to engender the change we wish to see in the fashion industry and our community at large. Furthermore, these Gender and Ethnicity Diversity Reports are the first of an initiative we plan to continue for years to come. Watch out for our ticket price break down coming out in the next few months.