Creative Women in Peru: Outliers in a Machismo World

photoFor the past two weeks my co-author, Dr. Marta Mensa from Piura University, and I have been crafting a paper highlighting the stories of the Peruvian creative women Marta interviewed. Our research explores relationships with colleagues, chances for advancement, and how creative women balance their professional and personal lives. The results clearly demonstrate that Peruvian creative women, who make up only 3% of all creatives in Peru, are truly outliers in a machismo world.

Like creative men, creative women have little time for life outside of advertising creative. Unlike creative men their personal life is made an issue at work. When asked about her work/life balance one woman responded, “You only ask me about this because I am a woman.” When it comes to the personal lives of creatives there appears to be a double standard. For women, children are a workplace concern. Yet, men are rarely questioned about  children. One woman described the vulnerability women, who might want to become mothers, feel. “When I joined the agency, I realize that two (creative) girls had just been fired. One of them had just given birth and the other had a son. They (male colleagues and creative director) felt that a child was too distracting for creative woman.” In our study all by one women felt having children – or even being married – was not an option if they wanted to work in advertising creative.

StudentsFinding women to talk to was not easy. In fact Marta found only eight creative women willing to be interviewed, as speaking about their struggles was itself risky. Their hesitation is grounded in reality, for creative women are marginalized and often harassed. As one women said, I worked in my first advertising agency and my boss harassed me!… He sent me messages, asked me out on dates, called me into his office to discuss issues that had nothing to do with work, he often told me I looked beautiful…. In some moments, I thought about leaving the agency, but I liked my work.”

The experiences of these creative women suggest that their relationship with males peers is very challenging, indeed. “My creative (male) colleagues tend to segregate me. Sometimes they do not tell me about a new client. When I’m with them they do not share ideas. It’s when I leave when they start to release ideas between themselves. Then I get mad and I confront them.”

Confronting their difficult situation often comes to no avail. Thus, it is no surprise that the average age of the women interviewed was 28 and that the average length of employment was only 3.5 years. Nor is it surprising that chances of promotion are severely truncated for women. One woman described her experience this way, “I felt the most discrimination from the creative director. He did not listen to my comments and always gave more importance to what my male colleagues said.” There comes a point when you just give up and leave. It appears that for Peruvian creative women that point comes sooner rather than later.

A final note. I would like to thank Marta for sharing her wisdom. While here at Marquette she gave seven presentations and a two-hour radio interview – along the way she observed five classes. Her generosity, wisdom and charming wit were gratefully appreciated by all those she touched. Piura University is fortunate to have her.

Adiós y gracias, Marta. Te extrañaremos!

Jean

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