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Women in Management in Latin America


As if it was not enough to be mystified about women in your own country and culture you may be dealing with women in Latin America who have a very different set of codes (this sentence was for men). If you are a woman you will also find that whatever motivates you and excites you may not necessarily have the same effect in Latin American ladies. How to be prepared for different behaviors workplace will be covered in this article.


I'm so glad that I'm a woman. or so says the song. Of course there are times when being a woman is bliss, but those times generally do not have to do with the regular workplace.

In Latin America it is still very hard for a woman to find equal opportunity employment. In general they will be paid less for the same work, they will have a harder time to get promoted and they will have to prove themselves constantly in a very macho oriented environment. As a consequence when you find a woman in a managerial position you will probably see the following characteristics:

  1. Very good academic credentials;

  2. Above average ability (intelligence);

  3. Strong will, slight aggressivess/defensivess;

  4. Multitasking capabilities (this is natural for most women);

  5. Family in a second place or some kind of a magical arrangement that allows her to still be the perfect wife and mother to the high Latin American standards. She is so smart she may be able to manage it.

This woman will immediately discover a mediocre colleague or manager. She will be very demanding with her managers and herself. She will probably come back to you with what she thinks is a better idea of how to do things and she will question you more than most men. If her income only supplements that of her partner she may be quite OK to lose her job if that is what it takes to make her point. Of course she will not want lose her job but she is ready to take more risks.

This is a challenge. Remember all the same differences that apply to Latin American men apply to women too, plus these very unique femina-in-management characteristics.

Here are some tips on how to make her feel good about you and her job and thus get the most out of her, which is a lot:

  1. Never underestimate her no matter how much like Little Red Riding Hood like she seems to you. She will pick up on that immediately, she will be angry, she will be disappointed because you are patronizing her and she will use it against you when you have your guard down. She is not to be underestimated;

  2. Trust her with responsibilities the same way you would trust a man. This will make her feel valued;

  3. Listen to what she says even if it begins with a comment that does not seem related to the job. If she wants to talk, listen. You will probably be kept much better informed by female manager than a male;

  4. Try to be understanding about her family commitments. This is the best you can do to keep almost any woman motivated. Since flexible working hours, part time jobs and home office opportunities are very rare, anything you offer along these lines will be highly appreciated. If you manage to help her with her excruciating work/family dilemma she will be willing to go the extra mile for you.

Here are some specific actions you can undertake:

  1. Stay open and flexible. Some women cannot work from their homes because they will not be able to concentrate. It will be useless to help them stay at home if they are desperately trying to get out of it. In these cases she may be fine with a clear schedule that starts and ends with no calls to her home after hours or on-call duties. That is to say, with a very marked limit between working time and family time;

  2. When possible telecommuting is a great option that allows women to work while still in control of her household. If multitasking is part of her set of skills she will be happy with this arrangement and her stress level may go down a great deal while making her much more productive;

  3. Give her permission to perform tasks that are typically done by women in Latin America: Take the kids to the doctor (the husband will probably never take a turn at this), Go to school and stay there when the kid needs it on the first and second weeks after holidays, attend school exhibitions, attend school parents meetings, etc.;

  4. Be attentive to the details. A nice boss gets a lot more out of a Latin woman. Feel free to give her little tokens of appreciation because they will most likely not be misinterpreted (e.g.: take her out to lunch, get into personal talk specially if you are a woman, bring flowers on special occasions like a birthday, chocolates and always observe the effect);

  5. Just in case, forget the hot Latin woman myth. Typically that is only available to their personal partners, hardly to bosses.

I expect this information to be useful for you in order to improve relations and productivity for women in management. Coming up soon is an article especially for foreigners on how to deal with Latin American men. Please send your comments to Good luck!

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