The power of a life-changing job

The power of a life-changing job

Violence against women, particularly in the most vulnerable neighborhoods, is a reality that really strikes Latin America. Can a formal employment opportunity twist life trajectories and provide new horizons of hope? This was one of the questions that gave rise to the research titled “The first job as a way to reduce violence and discrimination”, carried out by  Espacio Público and whose results are beginning to be known.

During 2020 and 2021, Espacio Público, an independent research center in Chile, with the support of Flacso Costa Rica and IDRC, developed this research study with the objective of identifying the effects of having a first job at an early age in a knowledge-based industry.  

The research, carried out by Espacio Público, maintains among its main findings, that by “being offered a unique job opportunity… Arbusta’s mostly female collaborators acquire technical skills and develop psycho-social skills that, in turn, protect them against violence.”

Arbusta, with operations in Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay, offers young people without previous formal work experience a first job. Under a learning by working methodology, they are trained to provide technology services to other large companies in the region. Currently, Arbusta has more than 400 employees, mostly young millennials and centennials who come from fragile socioeconomic backgrounds, of which, in an attempt to reduce the gender gap that dominates the technology industry, 60% are women.

The research shows how women who have worked at Arbusta in the past, point to this experience as significant and transformative of their life trajectories, beyond the scope of their employability.

When analyzing the effects of Arbusta on the lives of its female collaborators, research was carried out on the different types of violence that affect young women in the poorer neighborhoods of Latin America. The study looked to understand how these different forms of violence affect this group particularly, and in what ways the processes of learning and development within the company have served to free them from this violence.

One of the first aspects addressed was the number of structural inequalities that exist in society, that is, where and how the collaborators live, what roles they occupy in their nuclear families and what work experiences they had previously been able to access.

The study revealed that these women “... consistently report a lack of stable and formal job opportunities before arriving in Arbusta. This lack of opportunities is related to factors such as the fact that they are women, and, in many cases, in charge of taking care of family members.  Other factors include their not having higher education and / or prior work experience (which implies an evident vicious circle of social exclusion) and the territorial stigma of living where they live. “

Forms of violence

Physical violence against women is a daily reality in all territories. In the case of Arbusta’s female collaborators, the research has identified two major ways in which it is or was exercised. On the one hand, members of the team have reported having suffered sexual harassment on the street or in public spaces; on the other, they have claimed to have experienced situations of physical violence within their households.

Likewise, the study shows that these collaborators also record having suffered psychological or emotional violence from couples or male figures in their environment. So important is this issue in these territories that“approximately one in five female collaborators also indicates having suffered physical violence.”

Another form of violence addressed in the study was symbolic violence, that is, all those actions that lead to the generation of a system of thought that legitimizes social inequalities, making structural or direct violent practices invisible.

One of the main results recorded in the study is the impact that Arbusta is having by breaking the circle of exclusion.

In the study, “… it is pointed out that one of the strengths of the model implemented by Abusta is that they hire people with motivation to learn, regardless of the prior studies that they have…”. In addition, Teresa Ropert, the person in charge of the research, added that the collaborators “can propose things and have their needs heard. Arbusta accompanies them during their entry and passage through the company and makes them feel supported, which they themselves refer to as a different work context when compared to other jobs.”

In this sense, after the first barrier was broken, the study participants reported a significant improvement in their oral expression skills, overcoming shyness and gaining confidence to express themselves.

According to the Espacio Público findings, through the implementation of different strategies, Arbusta becomes a space for development and personal growth that allows its female collaborators to enhance specific skills as well as improve their expectations for the future, project their own work and educational horizons and challenge social mobility.

These collaborators also consider Arbusta as a space for the “improvement of their self-esteem, self-confidence and the desire to continue improving themselves in the future,” Ropert said.  

Regarding the impact of the study results on Arbusta, Martina Deluchi, Human Capital Manager of Arbusta, said: “This research has highlighted novel aspects of our model for identifying and developing young talent in Latin America, and has allowed us to focus on our gender policies, which seek to increase the participation of women in the IT industry and generate the conditions so that each of the young women who start to work at Arbusta can evolve to their fullest potential.” 

This study is part of the Besieged Lives initiative coordinated by FLACSO Costa Rica with funding from IDRC, Canada’s International Development Research Centre. Its main results are available here.

Do you want to know more about Arbusta’s talent development model and the services we can offer? Write to us at [email protected].