EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Despite Beyonce’s proclamation that women and girls run the world, gender equity is not a priority for many industries.
A recent study from IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 70 percent of global businesses report that gender equity is not a priority despite increased awareness of obstacles in the workplace for women.
The data from a global study called “Women, leadership, and missed opportunities” found that there are fewer women holding Senior Vice President, Vice President, Director and Manager roles shrank between 2019 and 2021.
“The data show that many women leaders are experiencing challenges at this moment. If these issues are not addressed more deeply than in prior years, there is a risk of progress backsliding further,” said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, Global Markets, IBM and Senior Executive Sponsor of the IBM Women’s Community.
“We should seize creative solutions now and redouble our efforts to make meaningful, lasting change that can help all women reach their full potential,” she continued.
Enter, EBY, a women’s underwear company co-founded by actor Sofia Vergara and entrepreneur and philanthropist Renata Black with an explicit social justice mission: empower women.
In fact, “EBY,” is an acronym for “Empowered By You.”
“The whole mantra of the company,” Black tells KTSM 9 News, “is to make the best in-class product and to enable women to have an impact with the one decision they make everyday — which is the underwear that they wear.”
EBY was created by Black and Vergara in 2017 to invest in women by providing high-quality products that enhance everyday life, and leveraging those products to empower women around the globe. The company operates in partnership with Black’s nonprofit, the Seven Bar Foundation.
Black says EBY was founded with a vision to break away from the traditional women’s underwear model and use unmentionables as a way to amplify.
EBY’s marketing is designed to be size-inclusive, feature diverse model casting, and does not use photoshop to perpetuate unrealistic body and beauty standards.
The Colombian co-founders also created a sustainable business model where 10 percent of product proceeds go to empowering women to get out of poverty and into business via microfinance loans.
Microfinance provides small loans to people who do not have access to traditional financing services. EBY funds microfinance loans to women around the world to bolster entrepreneurial pursuits and break their cycles of poverty, called a “first break.”
The loan amounts start as low as $70 and make it possible for women without traditional access to banking or financial services to launch or enhance their own business. Microfinance among women has a 97 percent repayment rate that goes directly to funding the next microfinance loan for another woman entrepreneur. When one woman pays back her loan, the funds are then passed to another woman in her community.
One loan recipient is a woman named Shirley who was born into armed conflict. Shirley was funded with a $70 micro-loan that she used to start her own cosmetics business to help give women in her community tools to feel beautiful and more confident.
Today, Shirley’s community calls her “the fierce little one.”
“The whole gist of this company is really redirecting the power of seduction — which is one of the most powerful energies out there — and redirecting that to the empowerment of women,” says Black.
“It’s statistically proven that women are the best investment,” she adds.
Black says that women entrepreneurs will often invest in their children’s educations once their businesses take-off, which also serves to break through cycles of generational poverty.
Today, EBY has invested more than $300,000 in microfinance loans to more than 15,000 women in Columbia, Nicaragua, India, and Haiti.
“So you have all of this support and empowerment of women just because someone decided to wear EBY,” Black says.
Black says that EBY was founded as an antidote to the lingerie industry and the ways traditional marketing models used women in lingerie as instruments for seduction.
For EBY, lingerie is much more intimate than whatever external sexualization occurs. It’s about helping women be their best selves while wearing the products and using sales proceeds to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
“For us, it’s about putting decision-making power in the hands of all women in America and really making them conscious of the decision to wear really awesome killer products with a choice that you make everyday when you’re getting dressed,” says Black.
EBY is the industry authority when it comes to seamless underwear innovation that offers a range of products from bralettes and briefs, to bikinis and thongs.
Visible panty lines (VPL) were irksome pre-pandemic and all but intolerable as most women have transitioned work wardrobes to include leggings.
“You really need seamless underwear now,” says Black, “and the cool thing about our product is that it has a technology that’s normally used on athletic garments that’s adhesive to your skin. It’s a beautiful velvet that moves with you throughout your whole day so there’s no riding, there’s no sliding, there’s no bunching, there’s no camel toe.”
The wearing of lingerie has long had a troubled history muddied by unrealistic beauty standards and an industry refusal to be socially inclusive to people who are not cis white women. Many lingerie companies rejected the operose work needed to meet contemporary consumers’ demands for inclusivity.
“It was important for us to be inclusive and that’s just normal now. How do you not offer something for everyone?” says Black.
Brouhaha over Victoria’s Secret legacy of problematic attitudes resurfaced recently when an announcement was made that the Angels were being retired and replaced by a coterie of diverse women that include athletes and advocates of different shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities.
The collective response was “too little, too late,” once the Victoria’s Secret announcement was made as many accused the company of tokenism and were critical of how long it took the company to break from what’s now considered cheugy and unattainable beauty norms complete with 12-foot wings worn by the Angels.
For EBY, it’s not about making products for women to wear to be sexualized, but rather offering a product that’s made well, looks good, and armors a woman to go about her day unimpeded by underwear.
Sizes range from XS-4X and come in a variety of cuts and prints that are both seamless and comfortable.
“After COVID-19, are you really going to put on a wire bra?” laughs Black.
(The answer is as little as possible.)
The pandemic changed the way many people wear and think about their clothes, and underwear is no exception.
Thongs, for instance, have consumers rethinking the stretch of fabric’s existential function.
Black notes that a person can go from not noticing they’re wearing underwear to being very aware if the product is not designed well.
“When you wear a thong under your dress and feel the ever so slight breeze on more skin than usual, you might feel free. When you wear a thong under your yoga pants, you may enjoy the way you can move around without worrying about too much fabric not staying in place. Feeling exposed in this private way is a beautiful, almost oxymoronic way to feel sexy and confident,” notes Black.
The same can be said of any undergarment.
EBY offers membership subscriptions that feature three panties delivered every three months at 15 percent off that users can customize by fit or style. Additional membership perks include early access to popular and newly-released products, and access to EBY’s personal empowerment course created exclusively for members.
There are more than 9,000 positive reviews on EBY’s website from women expressing gratitude about the products. Black says she often receives thanks from women who say they no longer have to worry about being self-conscious about a VPL at meetings, to women who’ve finally found comfortable undergarments after undergoing medical procedures like C-sections or double mastectomies.
Black says that EBY strives to make sure its philosophy is in praxis, and the team works everyday to amplify its goals and the social justice mission at the center of the business model.
“My philosophy has always been that hope is not a strategy and you can’t rely on limited donor funds or generosity,” says Black, “so seeing this social enterprise grow because women decided to wear killer underwear is really our goal.”
It’s easier to shatter glass ceilings in comfortable undies.