Overcoming and Growing: Building Foundational Relationships

Administration March 2024 PREMIUM

Dr. Cortes-Kennedy delves into equity, diversity, and inclusion. highlighting the hurdles encountered by Latinas in both education and professional realms. She promotes storytelling to foster comprehension, tackles relational aggression, and recommends the CARE framework for nurturing supportive female bonds.

The National Women’s History Alliance (2024) has proclaimed “advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion” as the theme for Women’s Month this year. This is a bit ironic, as these three areas have been a center of debate in higher education. As we have seen, Latinas are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in terms of higher education completion. The Pew Research Center (2023) reported Latina women now hold more graduate degrees than Latino men. Yet, Latinas only account for only 3% of full-time postsecondary faculty at University (NCES, 2023). 

As a first-generation college graduate, I understand the importance of each factor (equity, diversity, and inclusion), and how they serve Latinas in their personal, professional, and academic settings. The term equity has several explanations: being equal, showing fairness, or promoting justice (Equity, 2024). I think of this when I ask myself, how can we create allies in other individuals, primarily other women, when trying to illuminate  opportunities for equity? 

Boosting equity through supportive allies

Storytelling is a perfect example of how Latinas can create new opportunities and cultivate allies for foundational connections, thus creating change in various areas. How we tell our stories as profesoras, moms, mijas, wives, and tías alike, has a profound impact on our emotional connection and understanding of ourselves and others’ experiences. By creating deeply impactful, written literature, we lead others into several aspects of conversation, such as diversity and inclusion. This links the three primary topics of Women’s Month, creating a triangular connection. By telling one’s own story or listening to others’, audiences then activate compassion, understanding, intentional listening, and, most importantly, personal investment. This is important to remember as many of us Latinas understand the personal sacrifices, professional obligations, and many cultural barriers we face as Hispanic women. Reflecting on my own experiences as a thirty-something-year-old Latina scholar and professional, I have a profound respect for other women who do not treat me as a threat, competition, or nuisance in my professional areas. I understand the importance of appreciating other women for their skills and what they can bring to the table that I may not be able to. I am not afraid to say someone else is smarter, or has a stronger skill set than me: on the contrary, these are opportunities for us to have better outcomes. I was lucky enough to learn this through trial and error as a young Latina professional with good and bad female interactions.

Learning from Experience and Changing the Tone

As a young manager I faced the frustration of being undermined by a female employee when I addressed an incident involving her tardiness and lack of communication. This was one example of relational aggression; after more years of experience, I recognize that this phenomenon is still common in the workplace. Dr. Pat Heim and Dr. Susan Murphy (2003) explain relational aggression or indirect aggression as a manifestation of conflict between women; this includes gossiping, micro-aggressive actions, taunting, publicly humiliating, and sabotaging another woman. You may have experienced this as well; indeed, research indicates that it is more common than most of us admit or openly acknowledge. I asked myself again, how can women work together to create safe spaces which encompass and advocate the ideas of equity, diversity, and inclusion? 

Women’s month is a special time for us to think about how we can build or rebuild our female relationships in mutually beneficial ways. With regard to my own actions, I am committed to showing that I CARE about my interactions and reactions with others. I began to recognize this is done best through Compassion, Acknowledgement, Reassurance, and Empathy (CARE). First, showing compassion towards another woman for her strengths and weaknesses lets you focus on what you can both bring to the table. Acceptance, one form of compassion, is a significant aspect of showing compassion. Second, simply acknowledge one another. For example, making an effort to say hello to each of your employees every morning can make or break relational intentions. It is one of the things I remember the most about previous supervisors and how they cared about me as a colleague. Third, think about reassurance and how it makes you feel. Reassuring someone brings everything to the table: ideas, gratitude, attitude, and effort! Which leads to the finale, empathy. Showing empathy is a valid expression of the first three steps of CARE. It shows others you are engaged in your relationships and the workspaces you share. It is the epitome of building a strong female bond. 


-Equity (2024). In Retrieved February 1, 2024,

-Heim, P. & Murphy, S. (2003). In the company of women. Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 

-National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Characteristics of postsecondary faculty. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from

-National Women’s History Alliance. (2024). The 2024 national women’s month theme. Retrieved from

-Pew Research Center. (2023). More Hispanic women than men now hold graduate degrees. Retrieved from

About the author

Alyssa, S. Cortes-Kennedy, Ph.D., is a native South Texan, storyteller, academic and research scholar. She is an ambitious advocate for life-long learning, experiential leadership, and global citizenship.


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