Combating the damaging health effects of marianismo on Latinas in the workplace 

Cultural stereotypes and expectations can create barriers and lead to real health concerns for Latinas in the workplace. Marianismo is one of the primary cultural stereotypes that Latinas face, characterized by an idealized traditional feminine gender role that expects women to be submissive, selfless, and hyperfeminine. These rigid expectations can be overwhelming and create more workplace stress when Latinas do not fit the mold. 

Many Latinas in the workplace report feeling as though they are holding themselves back to fit into company cultures that are usually defined by traditionally masculine standards. One study found that 53% of Latinas reported that their workplace personas were defined by conforming to traditionally male standards. 

Machismo is the counter-side to marianismo and is characterized by male behavior that is strong, forecul, and dominating. When Latina women are in traditionally masuline spaces, they are expected to submit and follow, not lead. This can be challenging for women trying to get ahead and rise up to leadership positions in male-dominated workplaces. 

In a study by the Center for Women Policy Studies, 21% of women of color said they did not feel they were free to be “themselves at work.” Additionally, more than one third of women of color — ranging from 28 percent to 44 percent — feel they must “play down” their race or ethnicity to succeed in their careers. 

Listen to new titles by your favorite Latinas today on Audible! 

Negative health consequences of marianismo and cultural stereotypes 

For many Latinas, the stress to conform to cultural stereotypes such as marianismo can lead to chronic stress and burnout. 

Burnout is categorized as an occupational syndrome, “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout can effect Latinas in industries that promote a capitalist culture of constant productivity, with little regard for one’s mental and emotional boundaries

Due to stereotypes, many Latinas might feel expected to take on more responsibilities than their other team members. (Photo source:  freepik –

In workplace environments like this, Latinas might be expected to shoulder larger workloads with little to no extra compensation. Because cultural expectations, such as marianismo, believe women should be “self-sacrificing” and take care of others, many Latinas might be expected to take on more responsibilities than their other team members. 

Many Latinas have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, taking on greater caretaking responsibilities, losing jobs, and struggling financially. These factors can also put pressure on Latinas in the workplace to take on more work and ask for little in return for fear of losing the stability of a job and paycheck. 

You might be interested: 4 Tips for Latina and minority women on setting boundaries in the workplace

If unchecked, chronic stress and burnout can lead to health issues such as depression, anxiety, anger, and cynical hostility, adversely influencing cardiometabolic health. One study on Machismo, Marianismo, and Negative Cognitive-Emotional Factors found that  Hispanics—the largest U.S. ethnic minority group —are more likely to meet criteria for major depression than non-Hispanic Whites and are also more likely overall to develop diabetes and heart disease. Chronic stress is a contributing factor to the development of these health issues. 

Pushing back against cultural stereotypes can be difficult and daunting, but it is necessary to advocate for oneself and for other Latinas in the workplace. When left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to many negative health consequences that no one should have to face. Setting healthy boundaries and speaking up against biases and unfair treatment is crucial to establishing a positive workplace environment for all. 

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latinas in the workplace

How your employer can better support Latina and minority women in the workplace

Latinas are a powerhouse population both as entrepreneurs and in the workplace, yet continue to be underrepresented in higher leadership roles in Corporate America. 

According to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), Latinas are the fastest growing sector of the entrepreneurial market, yet remain underpaid and underrepresented at all stages of the career pipeline. Currently, Latinas account for less than 2% of executives and hold less than 3% of all corporate board seats.

Additionally, Latinas still have the lowest earnings of any major race or ethnicity and gender group, earning on average, 43% less than white men and 28% less than white women. As of today, Latinas earn on average only 55 cents to the dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men. This wage gap has hardly moved in over 30 years, and the longstanding pay disparities Latinas face have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. 

Women of color across the board were disproportionately affected during the pandemic, with Black and Latina women suffering the greatest job losses, with many working in some of the hardest-hit industries such as hospitality, healthcare, and service. Women of color were also more likely to leave their jobs to take on caregiving responsibilities for their children and family members. 

With these unique challenges facing Latina women across all levels of industry, it’s important that employers implement methods and resources to better support their Latina employees and be better allies to this diverse group of women. 

Listen to books by your favorite Latina authors on Audible today! 

How to be a better support Latinas and minority women in the workplace

In an MSNBC article highlighting the Latina experience in the workplace, one of the key issues they face in the workplace is the pressure to mask their identity as Latinas and conform to traditionally white, male standards to fit in and be taken seriously in executive positions. 

Many Latinas feel they cannot be themselves in the workplace and must “check their identity at the door.” 

NextUP found four key aspects of the Latina experience that hinder success at work and that employers can address in the workplace to create a more inclusive environment: 

Bias: Latina women say they are held back by assumptions and stereotypes that their cultural identifiers indicate a lack of intelligence, or they aren’t interested in advancing their career. 

Combating these biases in the workplace will help to advance and promote Latinas to higher level roles in the workplace. Employers should create a space that is open to diversity and different points of views. Global teams need diverse employees

Social collateral: Many Latinas have a natural respect for authority, due to their upbringing. This can make it challenging for Latinas to ask for credit when credit is due.

Creating a space where all work and contributions are valued and proper credit is given will help to support Latinas in the workplace. Fostering an environment where Latinas feel comfortable to speak up, set boundaries, and communicate their needs is crucial to being a better ally to Latinas in the workplace. 

You might be interested: 4 Tips for Latina and minority women on setting boundaries in the workplace

The corporate script: Latinas often feel as though they have to hide their accent and alter their natural persona (code switch) to fit in and be respected at work. 

Employers can combat this challenge by creating a diverse and inclusive environment that celebrates all identities and cultures. Creating diverse teams with people of different backgrounds and ethnicities will help combat the traditional, ingrained script of what Corporate America “should” look like and remind Latinas that there is no mold to fit into when it comes to being a leader. 

Emotional intelligence: Many Latinas believe they have emotional intelligence, but that it is questioned at work.

Employers can better support their Latina employees by dismantling preconceived notions about Latina women and creating an environment with open communication and equal respect. 

Supporting Latinas and minority women in the workplace is crucial for advancing their success and keeping women in the workforce post-COVID. With so many women forced out of jobs in recent years, supporting minority women in the workplace is more important that ever. Employers, companies, and organizations need to continue to create inclusive and diverse spaces where Latinas and other women can thrive. 

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teachers, latina teacher, students

3 Latina teachers in their toughest moments face complex cultural challenges

Teresa Sosa, Associate Professor of Education, discusses the complex cultural challenges facing new teachers as she shares the stories of 3 Latina teachers in their toughest moments.

Gun control. Hallway decorations. Hairstyles.

Those aren’t the things I expected to be stumbling blocks for three Latina educators that I helped prepare to become schoolteachers in recent years. But each situation came up in their classroom or in the course of their jobs at various elementary and middle schools in the state of Indiana, where I teach. Their situations are indicative of a time in our society when we are called to more closely pay attention to issues of racism and social justice.

I’m tracking these former students – along with three others – as part of a study I am doing on the first-year experiences of Latina teachers. As an educator who helps prepare future school teachers, I believe these experiences help shine light on some of the expectations that students, parents and school administrators might sometimes have of classroom teachers. Conversely, my research also shows some of the culturally dicey situations that schoolteachers may have to navigate once they get a classroom of their own.

teachers, latina teacher, students

Photo by Alena Darmel from Pexels

On a broader level, my research shows the complex interactions that can take place within schools with student bodies that are becoming increasingly diverse.

With that in mind, here are three examples based on the experiences of three former students of mine in their first year of teaching. All names in the following examples are pseudonyms.

Gun control

When Ms. Raymond, a sixth grade social studies teacher, discussed the Second Amendment, Mary, a white female student, expressed her view that Democrats wanted to take everyone’s guns away and that people needed guns in their home for protection.

Ms. Raymond clarified that some people want to see laws passed that make guns less accessible. That same day, Mary’s parents reached out to Ms. Raymond and insisted she meet with them in person. After Ms. Raymond refused to meet in person due to COVID-19 restrictions and her own sense of safety, the parents refused to meet via Zoom or discuss it over the telephone and instead explained their concerns via a messaging app the school uses for teachers and parents to communicate.

Mary’s parents claimed in their messages to Ms. Raymond that Mary felt Ms. Raymond is biased against her opinions and prevents her from stating them by not calling on her. They said Ms. Raymond should allow all students to speak their opinions, even if she doesn’t agree with them, which Ms. Raymond believes she does. They also insisted Ms. Raymond not speak to their child individually because she feels “threatened” by Ms. Raymond. They asked that the homeroom teacher, a white male teacher, be present during any further one-on-one interactions with Mary. The principal agreed that the student should be accommodated in order to make her feel more comfortable.

Ms. Raymond believes this is a move to undermine her position as a teacher. It also serves to uphold the stereotype of Latinas as being loud, hot-tempered and volatile, as indicated in the suggestion that she made the student feel “threatened.”

Hallway decorations

Ms. Sanchez teaches in a school district where the dual language program is prominently featured on the district’s website. And with good reason. The teachers in this program have gone above and beyond to make the students feel welcomed and part of the school community.

Behind the scenes, however, the principal told the teachers in the program – including Ms. Sanchez – that they couldn’t do certain activities, such as decorating the school hallways with student work, unless they involved the other teachers in the same grade level but who are not part of the program. This happened after those teachers – veteran white teachers – complained that they weren’t being invited to participate in dual language program activities. As a practical matter, Ms. Sanchez says this means the dual language program has to involve white teachers who know neither the students nor the program.

latina teachers,

Photo by Alena Darmel from Pexels

The irony of the situation, according to Ms. Sanchez, is that the non-Spanish-speaking teachers were always welcome to participate in the dual language program activities – they just didn’t want to stay after school to do it.

In effect, while the district promotes the dual language program on its website to create an image of diversity and inclusion, the dual language program in Ms. Sanchez’s school has little autonomy, and she feels it is subjected to white surveillance and control.


During a sixth grade science lesson that was fully online due to the pandemic, several Black girls began to comment on the hair of a white student, Amy, because her hair was braided in small cornrows with beads, seemingly in emulation of a hairstyle typically worn by Black girls.

“Ms. Gonzales, do you think Amy is culturally appropriating right now?” one Black female student asked.

Rather than address the matter on the spot, Ms. Gonzales told her students that these types of conversations are important and that they would address it two days later.

teachers, student, online learning

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

That day, Ms. Gonzales spoke with her team and the principal. Her team concluded that this is a conversation that obviously matters to their Black female students and that waiting two days to talk to them was too long. The principal agreed, adding that racial equality is a key part of their school and the only way to show students this is by hearing their voices.

She also spoke with Amy, the white student who explained that she just loved her friend’s braids and wanted to style her hair the same way, so she had her aunt do her hair. After watching a couple of videos and reading a book with Ms. Gonzales about Black hair, Amy came to realize how it could offend some of her Black peers. Ms. Gonzales also spoke with Amy’s mother, who was supportive and understood why Black students were offended.

Before getting into the full conversation of cultural appropriation, the class discussed what it meant to “pull people in” kindly to these kinds of conversations and not singling people out. Ms. Gonzales also discussed a bit of how Black women’s hair has been discriminated against, historically as well as in contemporary times.

She also brought in opinions from Black friends and colleagues on how they feel about white people wearing Black hairstyles, as well as Tik Tok videos of persons of color explaining why it’s cultural appropriation or not.

At the end of the meeting, which her mother also attended, Amy decided to make a statement which in part said, “I understand that I had my hair done and it offended some of my peers of color. I love the Black culture and I wanted to respect it. I didn’t know I would be offending the Black culture, and I thought I would be called out in a positive way and not a negative way.”

Ms. Gonzales said she received a lot of backlash from co-workers outside of her team who told her that having such conversations is wrong. Ms. Gonzales defends her actions, saying she sees it as important to provide a space where all students can voice their feelings and learn about issues such as cultural appropriation.

As these three accounts indicate, teachers in their first year of teaching must navigate various concerns – and sometimes concerns that conflict – among parents, students and administrators. Knowing this in advance can help teachers better prepare for the various cultural dilemmas they are likely to face in today’s classroom and beyond.The Conversation

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Written by Teresa Sosa, Associate Professor of Education, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.