The creative industry is tough to navigate, regardless of gender. Now, couple that with being a woman in the Caribbean, and now you have a really tough time. Despite the great strides that Caribbean women have made in the creative sphere, there are still a number of obstacles that they face in our region.
In general, the Caribbean takes a dim view of the creative arts. While artistic expression is enjoyed as a way to blow off steam or as a source of entertainment, it is not considered a serious or viable career path. Our culture has a habit of ignoring art’s present and potential contribution to society and the economy. On a whole, it’s often an uphill task to convince others that creative work is actual work, and not simply a fun pastime.
In the Caribbean, creatives are rarely taken seriously, and female creatives even less so. Women are often viewed as inferior to men, even when their performance equals or surpasses that of their male counterparts. In the creative industry, women find themselves ignored and excluded from key decision-making processes. They may also be unable to get credit for their work because it’s frequently done on behalf of clients or companies who don’t recognise them as authors. The fact that the region’s creative scenes are so small and male-dominated therefore lends itself to a culture of chauvinistic gatekeeping.
Rigid gender roles also act as a hurdle for women in the creative arts. Women are usually expected to bear the full burden of domestic and childrearing tasks, despite being otherwise employed. Many male creatives speak of the sacredness of their alone time that they dedicate to their practice, but few women in the industry can relate. Men’s creative work is seen as important and worthy of uninterrupted focus, while women’s creative practice takes second place to child care and homemaking.
But all is far from lost. Educating the public about the lucrative and beneficial possibilities within the creative sphere will help enlighten the region’s approach to the arts. Creative work, once harnessed appropriately, can serve to bolster the economies of Caribbean states and foster meaningful social development.
It’s still possible to shift the tide in favour of greater female participation and inclusion in the Caribbean’s creative sphere. Amplifying (and listening to!) existing female voices in the industry is essential. Sensitising men to the fact that women’s success can even serve to enhance theirs is also key to creating more open, welcoming spaces for female creatives to thrive.
A more supportive home environment can also help boost women’s engagement and success in the creative industry. Encouraging male partners to share household and childcare duties in a more equitable manner that reduces the woman’s workload frees up her time and energy for creative pursuits.
Women bring a different perspective to artistic work that can be refreshing and insightful. More women is a win for everyone. More women in the creative industry means more innovation, new ideas and approaches to old problems. Diversity of perspectives brings about diversity of solutions. Creativity is all about being different and examining things in new ways. Together, men and women can create unique and meaningful creative solutions.
Being a woman in the Caribbean creative industry is no walk in the park, but we walk with our heads held high. Despite the challenges, our resilience and inspiration will usher in a new era of equality!