Elizabeth Morales is the current Vice President of Diversity, a subchapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) at the University of Illinois. This is Diversity’s first year as a part of AAF and the team hopes to cultivate a culture of inclusion amongst the wide range of students involved with the Department of Advertising. Morales’ personal goal as the Vice President of this group is to “create a space that is inclusive to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, chosen gender identity, socioeconomic background or language barriers.” In an interview with Her Campus, Elizabeth Morales tells us more about her work, background, beliefs and opinions.
Her Campus: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Elizabeth Morales: I’m a 21 year old Chicago Xicana self-proclaimed barrio-nerd, crop top aficionado, and Junot Diaz fan girl in advertising and Latino studies. I transferred to University of Illinois a year and a half ago and and nothing makes me prouder than being part of a growing number of Latinas in higher education. My fascination with deep frying tacos and Morrissey is no secret to my friends.
HC: Given your position in AAF, what do you think is the cause of gender imbalance in the adversting industry?
EM: I’m a huge “Man Men” fan and when I saw Elisabeth Moss portraying Peggy Olson, I really empathized with her turmoil. Here’s a bright, intelligent and witty woman who is reduced down to a secretary and even when she does get promoted she is constantly struggling with rejecting sexual advances in addition to defending her intelligence. As women in a male-dominated industry, it’s difficult to find a path where we don’t have to compromise our beliefs. I find myself in advertising with the hope that one day I will contribute to the deconstruction of sexist, misogynistic and racist advertisements.
When trying to pin-point the main cause of gender imbalance in the industry, I feel it goes back to many problems other industries have which is the belief that women aren’t as intelligent as men. However, I feel in order to really make reforms within the industry there needs to be both recruitment of women and and specifically, women of color.
I’ve been blessed enough to be a member of the 2014 to 2015 American Advertising Federation Executive Board as it has really shaped my perception of women in the industry. Three fourths of our senior vice presidents (SVP) are women and about half of the general executive board are women. Naturally, I see that as progressive. It’s humbling to see individuals such as our president, Clare Laguttatta, and our SVP of Management, Mefah Joyner, encourage inclusivity from not just a gender perspective but a racial one as well.
HC: Diversity recently held a discussion on the importance of pursuing a minor in gender studies or foreign languages. How will a minor in this area benefit graduates entering any industry, such as advertising?
EM: The discussion is to encourage individuals to really take advantage of the ethnic studies departments on campus. Students in the College of Media typically choose to minor in communications or business and while those minors are complementary to the BS in advertising, a minor in a language or ethnic studies will not only differentiate students when applying for jobs but it will benefit their careers as strategists. Not everyone will enroll in the course “Multicultural Advertising” and as a result they will not be exposed to the historical implications that advertising ignores. The term “diversity” and “multicultural” is thrown around a lot when discussing the changing market and many perceive that change to be way past our time. However, I feel the market is changing faster than we expect and as students we need to be prepared. The market will ultimately be holistically multicultural and we need to be prepared to work in that environment. I feel in order to fully prepare students to work in strategy implementation and planning, curriculums should make ethnic studies a requirement. There’s too much emphasis on technology driven advertising and the human perspective of it is ignored.
HC: What is one global issue you are compassionate about?
EM: One issue that I am really passionate about is ethical representation of people of color in all mediums of communication. As a woman of color, I have found it difficult to not only have my narratives heard or expressed but also done so in a respectful manner. Historically the bodies of women of color have always been exploited in media outlets. The exploitation is not always on a sexual level but hyper-sexualization is evident in many cases. Women of color do not want to be known as something that is for ridicule. I’m recently started having discussions with friends on how women of color negotiate body images as a result of the media. For me, being Latina is something that I’ve reclaimed as something that is beautiful. With that acceptance comes internalizing that my body is beautiful as well. However, sometimes discussions of body image insinuate that I should feel shame over my body since I dress a certain way and that derails from my intelligence. I feel women should be allowed to feel sexy and be intelligent without shame. As a women going into strategy, I feel like it’s important to understand the deeper psyche of the representation of bodies and really try to represent everyone in these discussions.
HC: What do you intend to do after graduation?
EM: The awkward part of being a college senior is that nothing is really set in stone. I know the first thing I want to do is take a few weeks off and spend some time in Mexico City. Currently, I’m looking for a summer internship but I intend to spend the next year studying for the GRE and applying to the University of Texas at Austin’s Masters of Advertising program.
HC: What, so far, has been your favorite memory at U of I?
EM: My favorite memory of U of I has been the 2014 Pygmalion Festival. Having grown up in Chicago, I didn’t think central Illinois was eclectic but the festival really proved me wrong. My favorite sets by far were seeing CHVRCHES and American Football.