“Macho! Macho Man! I want to be a Macho Man!”
Did you all sing along with that? Just me–oh ok. A hit song with a famous phrase by The Village People stems from an adjective to describe men as “manly” or “masculine” is rooted deeply in Latin influence. How many times have you heard a man described as a “Macho Man”? I can remember vividly as a 90s kid growing up watching WWF, where the famous Macho Man Randy Savage would go up against other wrestling stars like Hulk Hogan to prove to the world who was the manliest of them all.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, it is essential to recognize and celebrate how far the Hispanic & Latinx communities have come. The growth, the change, the resilience you see in our communities are powerful and inspiring. As a proud Nuyorican, I can’t help but smile both internally and externally when I see how many latinx owned businesses, executives and artists are flourishing in my very own neighborhood of Brooklyn. A community where the struggle plagued a majority of us just 10-15 years ago.
It is equally as important this month to address the opportunities for further development within our spanish speaking communities. I still witness the specific social behavior of Machismo running rampant in our daily lives at home and in the workplace. In Latin American culture, Machismo is a social behavior pattern in which the Latino male exhibits an overbearing attitude to anyone in a position he perceives as inferior to his, demanding complete subservience.
Do you work with someone, or have you heard of someone who exemplifies machismo behaviors? I am sure most of us do or have. With the current social climate we are in, our responsibility is to educate ourselves on these forms of toxic masculinity. We must inform ourselves on identifying these behaviors and be an ally to those affected by them. Whether cisgender or trans men or non-binary, those who benefit from machismo culture perpetuate many adverse effects on those who do not. Often machismo culture promotes cis-male dominant figures of authority. If you work in a space that only has executives or leaders who identify as male, there may likely be some deep-rooted effects of machismo culture present. Women and non-binary folx have reported feeling stuck in their positions, experiencing ongoing micro and macroaggressions by their peers, and being subjected to bias at all levels of the business process. This culture should have no space to grow. And yet, at home and in business, it does.
I held a position as General Manager for a national brand department store. I inherited the staff from a previous manager. One leader, in particular, had a management style that was textbook machismo, and I spotted it early on. He was an immigrant from Mexico; he prided himself in supporting the majority of his family here in the States and back in Mexico.
He was reliable and had a phenomenal work ethic. His opportunity for improvement was that he refused to work with other men and was biased against women. He only wanted women reporting to him. He would divide tasks based on roles; for example, he would handle heavy lifting or machine operating while unboxing or sweeping, etc. would be assigned to the women on the team. When I would switch out his team roles for scheduling/payroll purposes and have a male employee work with him, he would become aggravated. He also had issues taking direction from his women-superiors; frequently, I would reiterate messages to him to get tasks done. He would not respond the same when instructed by the assistant managers, who were all women.
I knew a change was needed and I challenged his process by disrupting his style of delegation. I assigned specific projects for him, forcefully freeing up opportunities for the women on his team to prove that they were just as effective in operating machinery and other similar tasks. This strategy was so effective that I utilized the women on staff to cover him in his absence during vacations or different days. He ended up resigning, and we proudly promoted a woman on the receiving team to fill the leadership role. I knew it was essential to give women the opportunity to prove they had the same skills, ethics and drive to handle a male-dominated job.
I now challenge all of us to become better allies–not just in the Hispanic/Latinx community but everyone reading this. If we notice these behaviors in the workplace, speak up, do not allow gender bias and Machismo to fester. If you cannot speak up directly, use your position to become a champion and sponsor for women and non-binary individuals who experience the harmful effects of gender bias and machismo every day. Leaders, examine your workplace for bias through ongoing discussions with your teams, providing a safe and effective way to disclose transgressions and exemplifying the characteristics of inclusion and equity through your actions.
Let’s get to work.