Posted by: maddieroseholmes | January 16, 2018

Women Leaders in Latin America

For those of you who don’t know me, let me start by saying that I am super excited to be in this class, and to apply concepts to real life instances. Another piece of context: I am fairly familiar with Hispanic and Latin American culture. I lived in San Diego for ten years, learned Spanish from a Spaniard and a Mexican, and just spend a week in the Dominican Republic. I hardly presume to know everything about Latin American culture, but I think I know enough to provide an interesting commentary on women leaders in Latin America. With that in mind, I would like to talk about machismo.

Machismo, literally translated, means male chauvinism. It shows itself in male self-reliance, This is more than just a trait some men exhibit- it is a way of life. Machismo permeates every part of life: it fills the music, the stereotypes, and the perceptions that many Latin Americans have of women. In many places, women are consigned to servitude, where they are subjected to sexual and emotional abuse. Machismo asserts itself in gender stereotypes, particularly the occupations people choose.

Which brings me to the main part of this blog. When I was in the Dominican Republic, I served with an organization called Outreach 360. The organization was founded by an American who wanted to provide English education to Dominican kids at zero cost to them. Tom, the founder, staffed the building with Dominican professionals from the surrounding town of Monte Cristi. The staff members who worked in the kitchen were women, and the staff who drove us in buses were men. The only surprising thing was that the manager of the property was a woman named Nielson.

Nielson was a delight. She was always smiling and spoke the most beautiful Spanish I had ever heard.  Nielson had worked with Outreach 360 for about five years, and she was responsible for coordinating the volunteer activities and the supplies for the house. This job could have easily gone to any number of professional Dominican men, but instead, Tom gave the job to Nielson. I wonder if Tom had been a Dominican man, would he have chosen to hire Nielson? Or, because Tom is an American man, was he only influenced slightly by Nielson’s gender. Gender roles are etched into society to varying degrees, and machismo makes it even harder for women in Latin American countries to seize their leadership potential.


  1. This is a very intriguing post! I enjoy that you bring up another culture. I have noticed many companies that do this. When I was at a resort in Mexico this summer, I noticed a similar trend in duties. The women were mostly the maids that would tidy up the rooms each day. I would see them pushing the laundry bins across the resort. The men were mostly the bartenders, waiters, and cooks. I wonder why different countries tend to associate certain positions with a male or female?

  2. I enjoyed reading your post! What you are doing in Latin American countries is so awesome! However, I am sad to hear that Latin American culture supports a machismo lifestyle. I thought women had it tough in America, but this sounds absolutely dreadful. I am glad to see that a woman was the manager of a large piece of land. Do you think we, as Americans, can change other cultures’ perceptions of women? Is Latin American culture becoming any more progressive with time? Or are they stuck in this male-dominating culture you describe? While I can only imagine what you saw over there, I hope to experience Latin American culture for myself one day and treat women the way they deserve.

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