The first time I was ever exposed to machismo behavior was when visiting relatives in Guatemala at the age of twelve. While there, I suddenly became aware of sleazy looks and comments from men that I hadn’t experienced before.

My mother explained the word “feminism” to me when I was twelve, in an attempt to help me make sense of the world around me. As a result, I became more aware of issues regarding gender inequality and sexism.

“Machismo” is defined as “strong or aggressive masculine pride.” Even though this term typically refers to a certain culture, I have used the concept of machismo to help me understand what it means to be a woman in different situations.

I have both visited and lived in many different countries, but I still don’t fully understand what it means to be a woman in Latin America. This is something that continues to puzzle me, especially when considering diasporic Latinx communities.

Globally, it is tough to be a woman; however, in certain places and career fields especially STEM-related ones – equality can feel like an unreachable goal.

As an ex-pat living in Medellin, Colombia, Nora Leary has first-hand observed some of the distinct difficulties women in tech endure in Latin America. Although the author is not Latina herself, throughout her time residing there she reported on several ways that these women are speaking out against ‘machista’ culture.

A survey recently found that 26 percent of people in Brazil agree that “women who wear clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked,” and more than half felt that “if women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes.” This sets the tone for the understanding of gender in Latin America

Leary also points out that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has found that roughly 40 percent of women in Latin America have experienced violence at some point during their lives.

With machismo being such a prominent setting in Latin America, it’s understandable that women find it difficult to break away from gender norms and expectations, not just in their personal lives but at work as well. “Women experience bias in many areas of life: political, social, economic, and technology is no exception,” Joanna Prieto, Co-Founder of Geek Girls Latam told Leary.

Other startups and initiatives are already helping to create a better future for Latin American women in technology, and Leary’s talk highlighted some of these pioneer organizations.

Eversocial is a company that strives to empower women all around the world. This outstanding corporation has contributed to different projects, for example, PionerasDev, which helps Latin American ladies learn coding skills. Some other organizations that empower Latin American women in tech include Crea, Mujer Emprende, Geek Girls, and Epic Queen.

Leary observes that Latin America is not as developed when it comes to startup culture, which allows the region to learn from its Northern neighbor’s mistakes.

“Women need to unite and support each other. We need to coordinate better,” Marian Villa Roldán, CEO of Eversocial explains. “There are already several efforts and organizations, but there is a long way to go […] and we must set the example for the new generations without fear.”

The Latin American tech startup scene is booming with potential right now, and as more Latin American women take control, they inspire other women to begin demanding more.

Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come. Yes, machismo can sometimes feel utterly undefeatable and pervasive. But it seems these women are up for the challenge.

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