My work around Latina leadership often involves me addressing important factors relating to the cultural context of the Latino community. Often, Latinas want to discuss the influence their Latino upbringing has on their success and obstacles. Time after time, when I speak to audiences, Latinas say the Latino cultural context resonates with them because they are trying to merge two cultures -- the Latino and the American.
In my doctoral research, I emphasized the influence of the Marianismo Ideal which was first introduced by Evelyn P. Stevens (1973) and highlighted by Dr. Rosa Gil and Dr. Carmen Inoa-Vazquez in their book The Maria Paradox (1997). The Marianismo Ideal has traditionally focused on Latinas as nurturing women who carry the responsibility of caring for others which can include: immediate and extended family, friends, church and colleagues. What seems to hit home, is trying to master the act of caring for others while working on a career, being active in the community, being involved with a religious institution and/or trying to further one's education.
No doubt -- it is challenging to perform well in all your responsibilities; especially, when your cultural upbringing may not support responsibilities outside of the home. Have you ever felt that while developing (personally and professionally) as a working mother, student, church member, and community activist -- you have to grapple with the inner guilt of not being "perfect" in any one role because you have to divide your time amongst several roles?
To add to one's own feelings of inadequacy, people will not hesitate to tell you what they think you are doing wrong or point out possible potential effects of your partial absence in one or more roles, at any given time. This is the experience of many women, especially Latinas, who reflect the Marianismo Ideal.
While Marianismo may have been an obstacle to the success of Latinas, this Latino value no longer has to be viewed as negative because Latinas are changing statistics and breaking boundaries every day. Latinas today are demonstrating what I refer to as Modern Marianismo (Gil & Vazquez (1997) referred to as Nuevo Marianismo) which is to embrace the Marianismo Ideal (of being nurturing and caring), yet breaking away from the barriers those characteristics previously presented (for Latinas).
You may be wondering what Modern Marianismo looks like. From accessing higher education and technical vocations, to being super mom, to having careers that were not typical for women/women of color, to accepting leadership roles in various areas of their lives, Latinas are changing the world.
Through my research and experiences, I have learned that true balance may never exist but prioritizing can ensure fulfillment of all responsibilities -- with passion and conviction -- so you can put your best foot forward in any and every role.
Highlighting the stories of successful Latinas is essential to connecting Latino cultural values with
mainstream American values, and is particularly important for ensuring a pipeline of Latina leaders. Latina leadership is a topic of urgency to continue the momentum we have built and so mainstream society can see more Latinas in visible leadership roles. Latinas like Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Secretary Hilda Solis, Ellen Ochoa, Dolores Huerta, Consuelo Castillo-Kickbush and others, have paved the way for this, and future generations.
While historically, Latino cultural norms such as: Marianismo and Machismo have posed obstacles for Latinas, our Latino cultural values such as: Familia, Amor y Pasion (Family, Love and Passion) have allowed our people to overcome adversity across centuries. As Latinas, we should embrace our cultural upbringing as a crucial part of our success, find common ground for our dual cultures, and leverage what is means to be Latina and Americana. Pa'lante hermanas (Push forward sisters).