What Latinx Girls Have To Say About Role Models, Family & Leadership

Last June, as our Girl Advisory Board (GAB) was wrapping up their research project in partnership with Barbie, they realized they wanted to hear more from one group in particular: Latinx girls. As the grand finale of our 140 conversations with girls in kindergarten to 5th grade, we put together a national “Latinx Leader Power Hour” with 35 Latinx identifying girls from every region across the country.

While we are releasing the full qualitative report next week, in honor of Latinx Heritage Month (ending Oct. 15), we wanted to give you a sneak preview of the powerful messages that we heard from Latinx girls from coast to coast. We invite you to pause as you read these quotes and take in the grade and age of the speaker. These young voices echo the findings of Ready to Lead (August 2020), a national quantitative study that showed Latinx girls are leading now, and have clear visions for their leadership in the years ahead. This moment can’t come soon enough!

Role models matter

Girls face bias and unfair gender norms regularly; one thing that helps them combat these experiences is role models. Matisse, a 3rd grade multiracial (Black/Latinx) girl, shared that when a boy classmate stated that teachers should be men because they have more education and because women are not as intelligent, she was uncomfortable but stepped up and responded, “Well, women actually are smart because Harriet Tubman wasn’t a boy. She fought. And she led men and women through the dark nights.”

Family ties are treasured

Home is clearly where the heart is for many of the girls who participated in our study, and family ties bring great comfort. Abby, a 2nd grade Latinx girl, shared that she feels happy whenever she plays with her grandma. Max, a kindergarten multiracial (Latinx/White) girl, shared how much she appreciates her mom’s affection, care, and food and how that affection nurtures their connection. “I stand up for my mom,” said Max.

Leadership isn’t about holding all the power

In our study, 83% of Latinx girls’ definitions of leadership included an emphasis on partnering with other people and sharing power. Carmen, a 5th grade Latinx girl, shared that people often think a leader means doing all the work but that being a leader is the opposite. “Being a leader means to take action and to listen to what other people have to say … Being a leader means you teach people. And you help people to do things that you all do together. And you’re guiding them. And you listen to their ideas.” Carmen believes that a true leader is someone who helps others down the path to become their own leader.

Leaders value justice and equality

We were heartened — but not surprised! — to hear from our young girls that definitions of leadership included social justice — both making a change and working with others in community. Timber, a 3rd grade Latinx girl, shared, “Being a leader means to me, trying to make everything equal and being kind and being open-minded to lots of things, to lots of people’s ideas [of] being a leader and having justice and equality.”

We can’t wait to share the rest of our research findings with you. We are so grateful to the girls who shared their wisdom and perspective with us. They are all kinds of powerful.

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