Mind the gap

Women struggle for parity in Latin America’s cultural sectors.

In the last decade, Latin American and Caribbean countries have made significant progress in closing gender disparities, particularly with the increasing participation of women in the labour market. Nevertheless, the integration of women in some areas including science, technology, engineering and the cultural world remains low. 

According to a report prepared by UNESCO, women in the cultural sector suffer from similar issues than in other sectors and face difficulties in reaching decision-making positions, have less access to training and continue to suffer flagrant wage differences. The salary gap in the performing arts sector in Latin America, which includes culture, audiovisual and visual arts, remains strikingly high, with women earning 27.2% less than men in Chile; followed by Argentina, 22.9%; and Brazil 17.2%.  

A female visual artist in Argentina gave us the view on the ground, “My industry has improved a lot at the lower levels; it is now nearly 50% female but this is not the case in other industries for example in the film sector where the female workforce is about 40% and in the advertising sector that number is reduced to 30%. Disappointingly, the majority of people in management positions are still male.” 

“My industry has improved a lot at the lower levels; it is now nearly 50% female but this is not the case in other industries … Disappointingly, the majority of people in management positions are still male.” 

A female visual artist, Argentina

It is a common grievance that women in the region see their access to executive roles limited by the sector’s preference for more ‘experienced’ professionals. Thus, the Inter-American Development Bank (“IADB”) revealed in a recent report that women only represent between 15% and 30% of the executive roles in the cultural sector. 

The gender gap is a challenge in the management of the creative industries as women are currently less connected, possess lower digital literacy and remain underrepresented in the technology and creative industry marketplaces. Nevertheless, this could be overcome by improving the level of reliable data to understand the root causes of the problems and addressing them through gender equality policies. 

An advertising executive pondered what could be done to improve this inequality, “It may be controversial, but I would actually support a law enforcing gender equality in the creative industries. I believe that until companies are forced to take action, it is very hard for them to do so. However, at the same time, there is an obligation on women to go for what they want and grab it with both hands.” 

More vocal critics paint a more worrying picture, a female industry executive in Colombia commented, “The fact remains that the creative industries are dominated by men. At a senior level, it is a very masculine sector and those females who have made it to the top have faced all kinds of atrocities. I have friends who have been offered promotions but only if they sleep with their superiors. This type of behaviour needs to stop immediately, women can’t be expected to sacrifice their dignity just to get a management position.” 

“The government is beginning to collect data and analyse the information … but the structural changes are so complex that it will take decades for women to have a position in decision-making and in their salaries in the creative industries sectors.”

A female industry executive, Colombia

The same executive continued to explain that while some progress had been made, the rate of change was too slow, “The government is beginning to collect data and analyse the information, but the creative industries are unfortunately not on the public policy. It was hoped that under President Petro matters would improve in Colombia, but the structural changes are so complex that it will take decades for women to have a position in decision-making and in their salaries in the creative industries sectors.” 

In the meantime, women in Latin America’s creative industries continue to battle for parity with the hope that gaining equality at a junior level today will eventually result in the same achievement translating into the management levels of the future. We wish them the best of luck! 

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