Latina stereotypes in the workplace – Oh yes, they exist


All too often, stereotype generalizations about Latinas in the workforce impact how they can do their job and unfortunately can hurt their chances of moving up the career ladder. Perhaps the most common stereotype is that of the fiery-tempered Latina. Thanks to TV and film, the image of an angry, wildly gesticulating Latina is common.
According to an article in, another stereotype according to Esther J. Cepeda, 37, a nationally syndicated opinion columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, is the assumption people have drawn conclusions about her upbringing. “People assume I had a dramatic, impoverished childhood. They think I grew up in the barrio. They don’t know that my parents came here with college degrees and that I grew up in Wrigleyville” (a fairly affluent Chicago neighborhood). It’s difficult for some people to understand that Latinas come from diverse backgrounds, that we’re not all maids in Manhattan.
Latinas can undermine themselves if they worry there is a “stereotype threat,” and fulfill the stereotype by performing poorly. Their anxiety then makes the stereotype a reality. A study found that when women were even subtly reminded that men were better than women at math, their tests scores suffered. Studies also show that this “stereotype threat” is also the cause of educational achievement gaps for black and Latino students. Latinas must grapple with expectations based on both their gender and race.
To avoid these generalizations, experts say don’t be a scary, hot-tempered Latina in the office. You’re doing yourself and your fellow Latinas a disservice. A positive attitude is also necessary in navigating stereotypes as is a sense of humor and correcting people immediately in dealing with inaccurate generalizations.
Cepeda says, “I always assume that people are doing their best and mean well.” She also believes that having a sense of humor and correcting people immediately is the best method in dealing with inaccurate generalizations. “Sometimes you see your coworkers more than your family, so it’s best to be forgiving and ensure people know where you come from. For example, when a coworker mistakes one Latino ethnicity for another, you might joke, “No, that’s another kind of Mexican.”
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