Latin American female business executives: An interesting surprise

María Consuelo Cárdenas, Alice Eagly, Elvira Salgado, Walkyria Goode, Lidia Inés Heller, Kety Jaúregui, Nathalia Galarza Quirós, Naisa Gormaz, Simone Bunse, María José Godoy, Tania Esmeralda Rocha Sánchez, Margoth Navarro, Fernanda Sosa, Yenny Aguilera, Marion Schulmeyer, Betania Tanure, Mónica Naranjo, Beatriz Helena Soto, Silvana Darre, Rubén Carlos Tunqui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose: Because women's status in Latin American countries appears comparable to their status in organizations of more economically advanced nations, this paper probes the mystery of how and why these women fare relatively well in their careers, given that socioeconomic and cultural factors could limit their possibilities of achieving higher management positions. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: Exploratory study of 162 Latin American women who demonstrated exceptional success by attaining first and second level positions in private organizations. They responded to a semi-structured interview of 49 closed-ended questions about career challenges and barriers, leadership style, ambition, personal goals and work-life balance, plus two open-ended questions about men and women's leadership differences and how they understand their success. Findings: Interviewees disagreed on issues of discrimination, recognized few serious professional career barriers and regarded work-life balance as their main challenge. They understood their success in terms of individual factors such as personality characteristics, performance and results, and their own leadership traits. Most admitted that machismo limits women's access to upper level positions. They recognized their ambition to attain power positions mainly for personal satisfaction, and their main goal was personal development and fulfilment. Research limitations/implications: Given the sample size per country, future research could include a more representative and large sample or concentrate on one country per region to establish relationships between women's personal characteristics and organizations' sector, or challenges faced and leadership style. Also family-owned companies as well as women entrepreneurs could contribute knowledge about women's leadership in these countries. Studying only national companies, a more neatly description of local culture and gender awareness in its organizational practices that hinder or promote women's leadership and participation in decision-making positions may be obtained. Transcultural studies that compare women's rise and upper management performance in countries where support from domestic help and extended family as well as cultural values are very different, could permit to understand more fully what it takes to reach top management positions and the weight that these particular cultural conditions have. Originality/value: This study is unique in shedding light on a multinational sample of Latin American female executives and their perceptions of their success, leadership style and barriers and challenges faced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-24
Number of pages23
JournalGender in Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Ambition
  • Challenges and barriers
  • Leadership
  • Women executives
  • Women's ascension
  • Work-life balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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