There was a recent a study conducted on Latinas in the corporate world. The study found that Latinas are more likely to feel like they have to work harder than colleagues to be taken seriously. There is a fear of being seen as “too Latina” and a great effort to downplay our otherness at work.
When I read this I was like, aha! I very much attempted to assimilate my looks into a more mainstream “look” when I was in law school. I still don’t wear hoop earrings for fear of how they’re perceived. L
We’ve hit on these topics before, but it’s a recent student that shows how Latinas, across the spectrum, feel like outsiders in their profession. Being a Latina in law is bound to result in these similar experiences, if not more so than other fields, because of the stark conservative expectations.
I’m sure many of us can relate to the results that show how many women opted to dress more conservatively than their coworkers–likely because we know we’re hypersexualized and want to reject that stereotype. We also change our hair to look more mainstream. I opt to go natural more often than not, but I know that’s not a risk everyone can take–and yes, it’s a hairstyle is a real risk to our livelihood when the Courts have found that it’s ok to discriminate against certain types of ethnic hair.
Having to navigate through these mazes is exhausting. It goes beyond what other new professionals have to experience because while every new attorney has to learn the work culture and expectations, not all of them have to be concerned about whether their accent, body shape, or skin color will be a hindrance.
Aside from concerns on how our looks and behavior will be judged, we also risk burn-out by working doubly hard to be recognized. I usually enjoy being the most prepared on a case or issue because…well, probs because I’m a bit of a know-it-all that needs to tone it down and I have a little bit of an alpha competitive streak that I also need to tone down—if I’m being honest–but I think that’s natural in a lot of attorneys. In fact, working doubly hard is an inherent trait in leaders and Latinas lawyers are leaders. We’re trailblazers—many of us having been First Gen students who took a leap of faith to go to school; others were first tiny leaders at home who directed our families through unknown/foreign systems—working hard & leading the way is what we do.
But we may also strive to behave this way because we know that there is a lot of subconscious (and conscious) bias aimed at us. Are we here because we’re “tokens?” Do they question my intelligence because of my accent? Am I capable of performing at this level? So while we can celebrate our diligence and hard work, let’s not forget that some of that is driven because we know we’re treated unfairly—and again, that is exhausting.
If you feel a bit disconnected at work—know that you’re not alone, more likely than not, we all are feeling this pinch. This is a common experience for many Latinas and it’s not because you are not right for the job, but rather because the system was not made with us in mind. That’s why self-care is necessary; community is necessary; and enforcing your own boundaries is vital.
Have you felt like you have to work twice as hard at work?