Latinas in Leadership

Study Sheds New Light on Corporate America’s Latina Leadership Crisis

Authors point to COVID-19 crisis as big business’ chance to stem the tide of Latina executives exiting their ranks, or lose their sway over $1.7 trillion in Hispanic buying power indefinitely

As more states loosen their stay-at-home orders, a study released today by the Network of Executive Women (NEW) and Hispanic marketing platform Latinarrific prompts interesting questions regarding whether the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately reverse or accelerate corporate America’s Latina leadership crisis. Designed to examine why, at a time when annual Hispanic buying power is approaching $1.7 trillion, senior-level Latina talent is heading for the exits of corporate America at an alarming rate, the study provides essential insights into the drivers of Latina career advancement and how companies can better identify, promote and retain Latina leaders for a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The Network of Executive Women launches research on the Latina Experience in Corporate America.

“In a way none of us could have predicted, many of the traits the Latina professionals in our focus group cited as drawbacks within the traditional, white male dominated workplace – expressiveness, empathy, a desire for work-life balance – have become celebrated assets in the COVID-19 work-from-home landscape,” said study co-author Karianne Gomez, NEW Vice President of Strategic Value. “What remains to be seen, as the country reopens, is whether a newly enlightened C-suite will embrace the unique attributes Latinas bring to the table, or revert to its old ways, forcing an emboldened Latina talent pool that already represents this country’s fastest growing sector of small business entrepreneurs to flee corporate America even faster.”

Among 36 senior and mid-level Latina executives interviewed, most said they didn’t feel they fit easily into the typical corporate culture of the United States. While this could be celebrated from a differences-add-strength perspective, study insights show far too many companies quashing Latina diversity. With the historic standard for everything from promotability to executive presence based on white male norms, Latina executives have generally succeeded despite their corporate culture, not because of it.

Barriers to Inclusion

Factors hindering Latinas from seeing an opportunity for authentic advancement in large corporations include:

Collectivism vs. Individualism – Having been raised in a collectivist culture where the good of the group trumps individual pursuits, many Latinas learned from an early age to be selfless, generous and respect authority figures. Within the very individualistic culture of U.S. business, where assertiveness, independence and appropriate “push-back” are valued, Latinas are often viewed by managers as less “hungry” or personally qualified for advancement.

“Latina-ness” vs. reserve – Corporate poker-face is in direct contrast to the use of hands and passionate expression most Latinas learned as essential to communication. Focus group participants described being perceived as having a “Latin temper,” being a drama queen or overly sensitive – all while trying to discern what their coworkers’ neutral expressions meant in meetings.

Personalismo vs. “too familiar” – Touching and close physical proximity are common ways to connect personally and respectfully with someone when conducting business in Latin cultures, but sometimes go beyond the American norm of friendliness at work.

Prioritizing family vs. “whatever it takes” – Many Latinas place a significant emphasis on spending time together as a family – something corporate America says it values but often does not accommodate well. The Latina executives interviewed rejected the notion that prioritizing family diminishes commitment to career or reliably getting the job done. They may make it home for dinner more often than their traditional white male counterparts, but that balanced approach is part of the diversity and value Latinas bring to the table.

“A Latina’s cultural heritage has genetically engineered her for the work-from-home paradigm shift prompted by COVID-19,” said study co-author Arminda Figueroa, Latinarrific Vice President of Strategy and Audience Engagement. “Freed from the stress of babysitters, elder-care and long commutes, she can seize her full potential as ‘Chief Household Officer,’ being there for her family while managing her schedule and tapping into her overachieving nature to produce high quality work.”

Next Steps
The NEW report, Latinas in Corporate America – A Foot in Two Worlds: Elevating the Latina Experience, shares actionable strategies for companies looking to attract, grow and retain Latina leaders at this pivotal juncture. Unconscious bias and emotional intelligence training, intentional sponsorship programs, and accountability measures that tie executive performance reviews to diversity and inclusion markers, are among the steps study authors assert as key to creating authentic, profit-driving connections with Latina talent.

To view or download the complete report, visit

SOURCE Network of Executive Women

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