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Why Being an “Emotional Latina” is Good for Business
When my team asked me to write a piece honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month, it got me thinking about the importance of celebrating our heritage all year long. After all, acknowledging our culture and roots shouldn’t just be a once per year thing – Latinas bring so much magic to our world that I choose to raise awareness and talk about our community yearlong (hence why I'm publishing this today.)
That said, I have certainly had my fair share of moments at work that have challenged me and had me wondering if others really see that magic the way I do. Like the time I was in a business meeting and someone called me an “Emotional Latina.”
Yes, that happened.
I certainly had feelings about it at the time, but wasn’t exactly sure what those feelings were. I hated the characterization of my passion and empathy as “emotional,” and I hated even more that my behavior was somehow being stereotyped. It clearly had an impact on me, because years after that happened I still think about it.
Since I’ve been in business leadership roles for some time now, I can see things more clearly. Now I know that those same characteristics that caused someone to say “Emotional Latina” to my face have actually been uniquely beneficial to our organization.
Let me break it down.
The “Emotional Latina” is emotionally intelligent.
In an age where employee engagement has decreased and psychological safety and emotional connection have become so important to employee retention, the Latina leader has an edge. We’re hard-wired to ask questions and communicate, to value collaboration over competition, and to find solutions. We value harmony and togetherness, and that’s something deeply rooted in our culture.
Having passion for your work and a higher sensitivity to your employees is not a weakness – it’s just different from the corporate poker face we’re so conditioned to in the workplace. Imagine a leader who actually listens to their employees. Someone who leads with
higher sensitivity to the people they work with, someone who listens to their own intuition. Someone who makes space for others to do the same.
Latina leaders in the workplace may be accused of being “emotional,” but we have what it takes to lead a new era of work: one where employees are demanding a more safe and understanding work environment. In fact, according to Forbes, empathy has proven to be the most important skill for leaders. We may assume that aspects like strategic thinking and confidence are more valuable, but empathy is what is proven to drive business results.
If we want to retain the best talent, we need more emotionally intelligent leaders to create environments where employees know they are valued as a part of the team – where feeling heard and seen is not an anomaly, it’s just the way we do business.
The “Emotional Latina” values family and community.
When we all worked from home, out of necessity our workplaces changed. It became more acceptable to have dinner with family and schedule Zoom meetings around the lack of child and eldercare. We were able to shine at work when we were still at home.
One of the positive things about this shift in work is that there became a more widespread acceptance of the fact that we all have a community who we look after, who looks after us – something the Latinx community has been raised with our whole lives. Gone are the days of sacrificing your family or health for school or a job.
In the Latinx community, we are raised to think of the community over ourselves, be generous, and think of others. Leading with this mindset allows people to work collaboratively, be themselves, and communicate more openly and honestly.
We are fiercely loyal and work to preserve relationships as opposed to cutting ties and making harsh decisions. We’ve always been encouraged to see people on a personal level before all else. So let’s do a thought experiment here – are you more likely to work with people who value their connection with you, or those who are solely focused on transactions?
The "Emotional Latina" sets a good example.
Did you know that 76% of Latina leaders don’t feel comfortable being themselves at work? Some are encouraged to pronounce their names differently, others don’t feel comfortable expressing their feelings at work at all. But if I – as an Emotional Latina – show up fully, just as I am, then maybe others will feel they can do the same.
The research shows that Latinx leaders are being driven out of corporate leadership at pretty insanely high rates. Did you know that Latinx comprise 18% of the total US population, yet hold just 5.3% of executive positions (Swerzenski et al., 2020)? According to some new data from our partner Aleria, Latinx employees at work don’t feel accepted or respected, especially when it comes to their workplace interactions and career growth.
If we’re losing valuable and talented employees for these reasons, how do we create an environment where they do feel accepted and respected?
Having more Latinx leaders in your business allows employees to see that there is a place at the top for them. They will see that someone who is culturally sensitive, committed to their family and community, and passionate about their work is able to thrive.
Things are changing in business at a rapid rate, and if we don’t learn from our past experiences we won’t be competitive. I believe that being a Latinx leader today makes me special, and I know that other business leaders would agree with me. That’s why I choose to think of my “Emotional Latina-ness” as a competitive advantage. And I hope you do too.
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