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8 posts from August 2011

08/27/2011

The Best thing about being Latina

The Best thing about being Latina to me… how about you?


In a recent blog on Huff Post Latino Voices, Mona Lisa Faris asks the straightforward question, “What does it mean to be a Latina?”  As a Latina who has spent my career talking with and listening to Latinas, my answer to Mona Lisa’s simple question is paradoxically, very complex.
Latinas are an incredibly diverse group among ourselves – different from one another in almost any way you can think of…generationally, socio-economically, educationally, age, political orientations, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities, attitudes about marriage, family, children, power, careers, lifestyles, religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, etc.  The list is seemingly endless.  And yet, even though we are vastly different from one another, there are many ways that our experiences and perspectives are similar.  We feel a strong sense of connection and comfort when we are together.  It feels like family in the best sense of the word – como hermanas y comadres.  There is great power in our diversity and in our unity.

When I first became interested in doing research on Latina professionals back in the early 1980’s, I began by exploring what had already been written about us up until then in the popular and scholarly literature. What I found was quite disturbing. We were often absent or negatively portrayed as overly submissive or childishly naïve. Notably, with few exceptions, we were described by others rather than allowed to describe ourselves. Recognizing the absence of our own voices, I dedicated my professional life to surfacing and amplifying true Latina stories – asking Latinas what their experiences have been, what their major inspirations and struggles were and, most importantly, how they learned to face and overcome the many societal and organizational barriers they encountered.

The result of my many years of research and practice in organizations on Latinas has lead me to one overarching finding – Latinas are amazing, beautiful (inside and out), resilient, passionate and above all else, we are WISE. Rather than feel negatively about who we are (and in spite of distorted media portrayals of us)I agree wholeheartedly with Eva Longoria’s reflection that “being Latina is the most beautiful thing about me”.

After having listened to thousands of Latinas tell their stories over the years, I can safely conclude that being Latina in the U.S. today is a gift and blessing. We are poised to step into our power as leaders and contributors in every field, level and organizational context. The world desperately needs what we have to offer and we are ready to bring it. Bottom line – being Latina means having a wealth of wisdom and experience waiting to be fully recognized, manifested and utilized! What does being Latina mean to you? Your story and your voice matter – now more than ever.

The Best thing about being Latina to me… how about you?


In a recent blog on Huff Post Latino Voices, Mona Lisa Faris asks the straightforward question, “What does it mean to be a Latina?”  As a Latina who has spent my career talking with and listening to Latinas, my answer to Mona Lisa’s simple question is paradoxically, very complex.
Latinas are an incredibly diverse group among ourselves – different from one another in almost any way you can think of…generationally, socio-economically, educationally, age, political orientations, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities, attitudes about marriage, family, children, power, careers, lifestyles, religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, etc.  The list is seemingly endless.  And yet, even though we are vastly different from one another, there are many ways that our experiences and perspectives are similar.  We feel a strong sense of connection and comfort when we are together.  It feels like family in the best sense of the word – como hermanas y comadres.  There is great power in our diversity and in our unity.

When I first became interested in doing research on Latina professionals back in the early 1980’s, I began by exploring what had already been written about us up until then in the popular and scholarly literature. What I found was quite disturbing. We were often absent or negatively portrayed as overly submissive or childishly naïve. Notably, with few exceptions, we were described by others rather than allowed to describe ourselves. Recognizing the absence of our own voices, I dedicated my professional life to surfacing and amplifying true Latina stories – asking Latinas what their experiences have been, what their major inspirations and struggles were and, most importantly, how they learned to face and overcome the many societal and organizational barriers they encountered.

The result of my many years of research and practice in organizations on Latinas has lead me to one overarching finding – Latinas are amazing, beautiful (inside and out), resilient, passionate and above all else, we are WISE. Rather than feel negatively about who we are (and in spite of distorted media portrayals of us)I agree wholeheartedly with Eva Longoria’s reflection that “being Latina is the most beautiful thing about me”.

After having listened to thousands of Latinas tell their stories over the years, I can safely conclude that being Latina in the U.S. today is a gift and blessing. We are poised to step into our power as leaders and contributors in every field, level and organizational context. The world desperately needs what we have to offer and we are ready to bring it. Bottom line – being Latina means having a wealth of wisdom and experience waiting to be fully recognized, manifested and utilized! What does being Latina mean to you? Your story and your voice matter – now more than ever.

08/21/2011

Why Companies Should Invest In Latinas:

The ROI For Latina Success?


Too many organizations create mission and vision statements that include references to valuing diversity yet fail to treat these issues with the same seriousness that they place on other organizational imperatives.
http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/03/why-most-corporate-diversity-programs-are-wrong-headed.html
We have seen too many examples of where managers with strong technical skills were allowed to wreak havoc with the people side of the operation with few consequences.  In fact, some of them continue to be promoted regardless of well-documented instances of employee neglect or even abuse.  Latinas bring skills on both the people side and the business side to their organizations. 

Typically, managers who focused on developing others or the emotional needs of their teams are seen as weak or placing too much attention to the “soft” side of their operations. Recent attention to the value of emotional intelligence and building solid relationships has begun to shift this paradigm. The relational abilities of Latinas need to be reframed given this new perspective. When these interpersonal abilities are recognized and elevated to their proper importance, Latina talent will be more fully valued.

Managers need support to understand how to interact and manage a diverse workforce.  Expecting them to magically know how to relate to workers who come from different backgrounds is unrealistic and unfair.  Once they have been given the training and tools they need to manage inclusively, managers’ performance needs to be tied to reward systems and performance evaluations.  When developing people and building authentic relationships becomes as important as the financial ROI, organizations will be on the path toward truly
living their values and tapping into Latina talent and leadership potential. 

(Link to: Wasserman, I. C., Gallegos, P. V., & Ferdman, B. M. (2008). Dancing with resistance: Leadership challenges in fostering a culture of inclusion. In K. M. Thomas (Ed.), Diversity resistance in organizations: Manifestations and solutions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.)

Latinas Team

How Latinas Build Inclusive Teams


The key to competitive advantage in today’s diverse and challenging business environments is the ability to build and support inclusive teams that maximize rather than minimize differences to unleash innovative ideas and multiple perspectives.  Latinas come from backgrounds that taught them how to include people from a wide range of styles, abilities and interests.  They know how to promote a team environment where all can feel valued and bring their best thinking to bear on complex problems.  They know that it takes more than simply putting together people from diverse viewpoints and expecting them
to perform. In fact, failing to intentionally manage differences in diverse workgroups is a recipe for failure.

Most people have a tendency to move toward sameness and build relationships based on commonalities.  (See Developing Intercultural Competence)

http://www.library.wisc.edu/EDVRC/docs/public/pdfs/SEEDReadings/intCulSens.pdf

The new workplace calls for the counterintuitive ability to amplify and move toward differences.  Cross-cultural competence requires individuals to know how to learn about and work effectively with people who share very little with them.  This competence can only be developed by living and working with people who are different. 

http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/06/the-lack-of-cultural-intelligence-is-damaging-our-enterprises-and-our-economy.html

From their diverse families Latinas learned that you can’t treat everyone the same and still have positive outcomes.  As they moved through their academic and professional careers, they were often the only or one of a few women or Latinos.  When they moved up in institutional hierarchies they had to learn to understand and engage others from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.
Being curious about differences and knowing how to inquire about what they don’t understand is a critical skill in building inclusive teams.  http://hbr.org/2011/06/defend-your-research-what-makes-a-team-smarter-more-women

Life has taught Latinas that having an open mind and the ability to bring people together including their differences is the only way to build high-performing teams where all can add value in their own way.  As demonstrated by innovative companies, finding ways to maximize diversity by creating passionate and dedicated teams will be the difference between competitive success and stagnation. Latinas can help make the critical difference.

 

Mining Latina Talent:

Untapped Resources & Hidden Jewels


What if the very thing that organizations need most is sitting in plain sight yet remains invisible?

What is required for leaders and organizations to access the genius Latinas bring to work? In other postings I discuss the challenges that face Latinas and the dilemmas we need to resolve to step into our fullest potential. (Link to: Holvino, E. & Gallegos, P. (2008) Latinas at Work: An Untapped Resource for Organizational Success. In Latinos y Latinas in the Workplace: How Much Progress Have we made?
Diversity Best Practices: Washington, D.C.) The following three areas represent a place to begin transforming the workplace to make it more Latina-friendly.

1.  Current organization cultures driven by values that conflict with key Latina values.

Organization cultures that currently exist often make it difficult for Latinas to contribute their fullest.  When Latinas conform to these highly individualistic cultures, they lose much of what makes them who they are.  Rather than compete for scarce resources, Latinas prefer collaborative environments that allow everyone to thrive.  This generous purpose motivates them to include others in their consideration and work to achieve shared goals.  Less concerned with looking good or tooting their own horns, getting the work done by doing whatever it takes is their preferred mode of operating.


2.  Need for new, more creative models of SUCCESS that fit a more diverse workforce with changing needs and priorities.

The traditional path toward success in most organizations is following an upward trajectory toward higher levels of management, prestige and responsibility.  For Latinas, this model is too narrow.  They are oriented in their families and home lives to care for the needs of their extended families, younger generations and communities. 
If being successful by organizational standards puts these broader concerns at risk, Latinas are often unwilling to pay the price. When they find leaders that recognize their talent and are willing to work with them to create a worklife that accommodates their competing commitments, Latinas work tirelessly to achieve organizational objectives and strategic outcomes.

3.  Create greater emphasis on authenticity in workplace relationships that move beyond the superficial and encourage people to bring   their fullest selves to work.


Latinas highly value relationships characterized by mutual respect and honest engagement.  When they find themselves in situations that discourage candor and require playing power games, they are at a loss for how to engage.

http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/06/corporations-must-bring-democracy-into-the-workplace-a-conversation-with-worldblu-hcl-technologies-and-groupon.html
 Their preferred mode is one where people bring their

humanity, life experiences and open communication. If they feel that they can’t trust their co-workers or leaders, they can lose confidence in the organization and become de-motivated. They also begin to look outside their current environment in search of places to work that allow them to relate authentically with the people they can trust.

Latinas, how would you describe a workplace that is truly Latina-friendly where you can bring your whole self to work?  For organizations, what are you doing to make your workplace one where all people can thrive and where they can’t wait to get to work each day?  That is the new organizational context that will drive extraordinary performance!

Latina Generous Purpose:

Why It Isn't Selfish To Take Care Of Yourself


Latinas have a great capacity to care for others and give without concern for their own self-interest.  This generous purpose provides competitive advantage to organizations that appreciate and can maximize this asset.  As described by CHL:

“It is our nature to give. We are raised to consider others’ needs as much as our own. This begins with giving inside our family when we are young, and then, when we are older, we are taught that we are a part of a larger family all around us.
Our propensity to give to others from our harvest ensures us a perpetual harvest.”

For Latinas, this willingness to give to others freely and without expectations is amplified by gender expectations in the family and their orientation toward service in their communities.  Like any strength taken to an extreme, generous purpose needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of self-interest or the results can be detrimental.
http://newlatina.net/workaholism-quiz/


In conversations with groups of Latinas, I ask about self-care and inquire about what they do to support their own well-being.  I am often met with nervous laughter or blank stares.  When they do respond, they demonstrate how little attention they give to this aspect of their lives. 

Instead they tell stories of caring for their children, nieces and nephews, parents and grandparents and even their husbands or life partners.  Finding time to also care for the needs of their colleagues,

subordinates and executives can lead to feeling overwhelmed and burned out by so many expectations. One woman poignantly remarked that ending up in the hospital for stress-related illness is what it took to wake her up to her deficiencies in this regard.

The solution to this dilemma has multiple parts.  First, organizations need to pay attention to the ways that Latinas are contributing to their teams in obvious and subtle ways.  They also need to create collaborative work environments where sharing resources and building mutually beneficial relationships is not only supported but expected by all associates. This will go far to minimize some people skating by on the achievements of others and reward those who build significant relationships with co-workers, clients and customers. 

These so-called “soft skills” need to be valued and incorporated into core business processes rather than continue to be seen as optional or nice-to-have qualities that some have and others don’t. The other side of the coin has to do with Latinas themselves shifting their mindsets to recognize that caring for self is not only an option to consider but a necessity if they are to continue supporting others at work and in their communities. The metaphor from air travel where customers are instructed to place their air mask on first before attempting to assist others fits well into this topic. Attending to their own physical, mental and emotional well-being needs to be a developmental priority for Latinas. Though counter to their cultural orientations and gender expectations, Latinas can maintain their generous purpose while also extending that generosity and compassion to themselves.

Vision

Latinas Making Our Own Way Through The Corporate Jungle


Learning to see around corners and anticipating what lies ahead has become a way of life for many Latinas.  Often entering schools and workplaces where they were the numerical and cultural minority, required them to develop strategies for success that have served them well in their careers. 

Coming from a historically male-dominated, patriarchal culture where the role of women was often minimized and they were relegated to domestic duties, Latina professionals had to overcome these negative messages in order to succeed in corporate environments. 
In order to overcome their own internalized perceptions and the narrow expectations from their families and communities, they had to learn to understand the dynamics they encountered and be extremely creative in devising strategies for transforming themselves and others.  Circular vision provided them with the insight and creativity to anticipate barriers and find ways through, around, over or under these limitations. http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/04/how-you-can-profit-from-thomas-edisons-inventions.html

Hearing that their dreams were too ambitious or that “no one’s ever done that” became a challenge rather than a final sentence.

Whether achieving their academic goals or finding career success, Latinas learned that they had to forge their own ways rather than relying on successful role models or mentors who would coach them through their difficulties. http://www.catalyst.org/publication/48/advancing-latinas-in-the-workplace-what-managers-need-to-know

 In today’s workplace, these same skills for anticipating problems and finding out-of-the-box solutions are desperately needed.  Rather than waiting for others to show them the way, engaged Latinas take the initiative to explore new options and develop creative strategies for addressing stubborn business dilemmas.  The experiences that they had growing up in Latino families and challenges they faced in achieving their goals have strengthened and deepened their determination and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done.


These life experiences and capacities have the potential to become competitive advantages for organizations smart enough to capitalize on them. (Link to: Gallegos, P. V., Ferdman, B.M. (2007).  Latino Identity Orientations: Implications for Leaders and Organizations. The Business Journal of Hispanic Research) Latinas circular vision can be relied upon to search out new opportunities and engage old problems in ways that further advance organizational innovation and success. How do Latinas experiences and perspectives allow them to see what others may
miss? Ask a Latina and be prepared to listen and learn!

Latina Passion

How Latina Passion Can Fire Up Your Workplace


The stereotype of the hot-blooded Latina has dominated many of the portrayals of us in movies and television over the years. http://notmadeforlatinas.blogspot.com
While having become less obvious, this image continues to influence how we are perceived in professional situations.  While recognizing the great harm that is caused by this narrow, sexualized version of Latinas, there is a reality that can serve as a great asset in today’s workplace. 

Latinas do have a wide range of emotional expression and dedication that comes through when we are passionate about the work we are doing and the mission of the organizations we belong to.  The concept of “emotional intelligence” that has become popularized by Daniel Goleman and other theorists in the past decade, describes competencies that Latinas have long demonstrated and relied upon at work and home.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence It is interesting how the same behaviors can be seen positively when applied to one group and seen as a detriment when identified with another.  Of necessity, Latinas learned at an early age that paying attention to the emotional needs of those around them was a life and death issue. 

Many Latinas who represent the immigrant perspective in the U.S., come from families that have suffered hardship and crisis in order to survive and thrive in foreign environments.
http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/06/immigrant-leadership-is-needed-to-reinvent-americas-corporations.html

They learned that we depend on each other emotionally and practically.  As the chief caretakers within the family and community, Latinas developed emotional sensitivity that is transferred into the workplace with amazing applicability.

Being able to notice to the emotions of others and respond appropriately is a key to leadership and developing work cultures that allow everyone to thrive.  Our passion for life and our organizations is captured in the CHL philosophy:

“Our ability to inject intense passion into everything we do makes us potent pioneers. We not only blaze paths few would go down, we see them through to the end.   Our passion opens new doors of possibilities that we aim to share with others.”

Yes, Latinas do have great passion that they are able to express freely.  What sometimes gets missed is how this capacity is a precious resource that needs to be nurtured, supported and amplified.  Instead, when Latinas enter many organizational cultures, their passion is squelched and they are told that they need to tone themselves down in order to fit in and be successful.  Organizations need to take stock of the kind of culture that predominates including the range of emotional expression that is considered acceptable. 

In many, maintaining a narrow range of expression includes bringing a poker face into the board room and has long been seen as the gold standard for access into upper management.  Finding greater passion is a success factor that fuels innovation and brings great competitive advantage to any organization.  Latinas who are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work can lead the way in creating organizations where all people thrive and authentic relationships support innovation and breakthrough thinking.

To further understand your authentic leadership, complete CHL self-assessment

08/10/2011

Familia or Career:

Has Our Traditional Family Orientation Been Used Against Us?


The idea that Latinas put their families first has sometimes been used as a barrier to question our potential as dedicated leaders and organizational contributors.  This is one of those situations where there is both truth and distortion in the stereotypes about Latinas.

While we proudly value the cultural message we grew up with that the family was and is the primary source of our identity and support, this does not mean that we are any less dedicated to organizational success than any other group.

In fact, knowing how to dedicate oneself to the well-being of others is a valuable skill in today’s new workplace. We bring the potential for greater cohesiveness and stronger teams to the groups we work with as we put into practice our cultural promise . As defined by CHL:

“Our familial style of relating brings potentially everyone within the circle. The strongest bonds in business, across the entire value chain, occur when employees, partners and distributors alike are treated like family. The treatment is reciprocated and opportunities continue to arise. Our cultural promise is that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. “


While this ability to create mutual support and alignment within workgroups is a success factor for all employees, for Latinas it has particular impact. Throughout our lives, we have been taught to pay attention to the needs of others and work to see that all members of the group feel included and valued.

While others who have been oriented in a highly individualistic culture may struggle to become more team-oriented, for Latinas, it is already deeply embedded in our DNA. Whether at home, in our communities or at work, our willingness to take into account the well-being of each individual and find innovative ways to bring people together is the cultural promise that is yet to be realized in most corporations today. The challenge for Latinas is to make the connections in our own minds between our dedication to family AND to our organizations and articulate the business case to their leaders.

http://www.glennllopis.com/2011/08/4-ways-to-regain-control-of-your-identity-in-the-workplace.html For organizations, recognizing and supporting Latinas to manage the dilemmas they face balancing these dual commitments will pay off with greater loyalty and dedication by these valuable contributors. What are you doing to claim your identity and integrate the culture of your family with the culture of your workplace?
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