Promotional models, also known as ‘promo girls’, are often hired to help improve demand for a product, service or brand by interacting directly with potential consumers.
However, Sarah-Anne Gresham, who carried out the study, said that many girls have limited negotiating power against their employers.
“There might be limited negotiating power among younger girls to determine about what they would like to do as a promo girl, what they would like to wear; some of them are pressured to drink,” she said.
As part of her certificate course at the Caribbean Institute in Gender and Development at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, Gresham interviewed former and current promotional models, who were recruited while in their teenage years, which she believed is a matter of concern.
“[Recruited girls younger than 18] is a cause for concern, because you have older patrons, who tend to prey upon highly prized young girls,” she said.
She said that the work of a promotional model was a legitimate form of work, which should be regulated like any other form of work.
“We want to make sure that [there are regulations] that ID cards of both patrons and promo girls are checked. We want to ensure that there are contacts that [stipulate] certain clauses such as anti-discrimination and sexual harassment,” she said.
Gresham added that there needs to be gender sensitisation and training for employers to identify and address cases of abuse and exploitation and discrimination based on age and colour.
The social science researcher said that while sexualising young girls was a very effective marketing strategy, it reinforced gender imbalances in society and she disagreed with the sexual objectification of women.
“[There are] imbalances in which men are profiting more from women’s sexual presentation, more than the women themselves,” she said.
She also added that the rigid societal structure contributed to the imbalance, stating that, “women are subtly pushed into certain roles and have certain expectations that women are expected to embody.”
She cited male managers and DJs, who tend to earn higher income and have stronger negotiating power.
Gresham is a member of the advocacy group, Intersect, and a research officer at the Directorate of Gender Affairs.
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