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Multiplying Themselves: Women Cosmetics Sellers in Ecuador


  • Erynn Masi de Casanova


With the “feminization of labor,” more women in developing countries are working for pay, but that work is precarious and often exists in the informal economy. This paper examines the situation of Ecuadorian women selling cosmetics through a multilevel direct sales organization in which earnings are dependent on the amount of product sold and the number of sellers recruited. This relatively new type of gendered, paid employment promises to help women achieve balance between paid work and family responsibilities. Using ethnographic methods to explore direct-selling mothers' identities, strategies, and struggles, this study finds that such a balance remains elusive for these women sellers, despite the purported flexibility of direct sales work. It discusses the finding that women think about their paid work and family roles as connected and examines the myth prevalent among direct sellers that successfully balancing paid work and family comes from “organizing yourself.”

Suggested Citation

  • Erynn Masi de Casanova, 2011. "Multiplying Themselves: Women Cosmetics Sellers in Ecuador," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(2), pages 1-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:17:y:2011:i:2:p:1-29
    DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2011.568419

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