Welcome to the 12th installment in the ongoing Local Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight series. In these blog posts, we’ll explore how various countries around the world address diversity and inclusion in their culture and workplace.
Our newest spotlight country? Bolivia, a country that celebrates its Independence Day on August 6.
Here are some things to know about diversity and inclusion in Bolivia.
Note: Information is excerpted from GlobeSmart Culture Guides.
The Bolivian constitution contains protections for LGBT people, although discrimination is still rather common.
Despite the legal protections against discrimination in Bolivia, it still happens. For example, although it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in the military, homosexuality is a strong enough taboo that gays and lesbians would not be allowed to serve openly. LGBT people also report discrimination in employment, education, and access to health care services. Discrimination tends to be worse in rural areas than in the two largest cities of La Paz and Santa Cruz, resulting in many rural gays migrating to the more tolerant urban centers. Yet even in the cities, many gay people are not willing to be open about their sexual orientations. Most gay-oriented businesses keep a low profile. Gay travelers are not likely to experience harassment, but discretion is advised.
Societal attitudes toward LGBT people in Bolivia tend to be negative, and few gay people are willing to be open about their sexuality.
The Roman Catholic Church, which condemns homosexuality, has a strong conservative influence on Bolivian attitudes. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 49% of Bolivians said that society should not accept homosexuality, and 67% opposed same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, LGBT activists claim that considerable progress has been made in recent years and that the recent government protections have helped to move LGBT Bolivians closer to acceptance.
Consensual sex between adults of the same sex is legal in Bolivia.
Bolivia has no laws restricting consensual sex between same-sex partners. The Bolivian constitution has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation since 2009, and additional legislation against discrimination in employment has been in place since 2011. In December 2015, the government enacted legislation allowing transgender adults to change their names and genders in official identification documents if they have undergone gender reassignment surgery.
The Bolivian constitution defines marriage to be between opposite-sex couples only.
Same-sex couples in Bolivia may not marry or adopt children jointly, although a single person may adopt. In 2009, language was added to the constitution limiting marriage and civil unions to opposite-sex couples.
Note: The abbreviation LGBT+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and the + is inclusive of other groups and identities.
In Bolivia, a woman’s role in the workplace often depends upon her community or socioeconomic status.
Bolivia is a traditionally patriarchal society, although this is changing. A woman’s position in the family and involvement in the workplace often depends on her socioeconomic status and community. In the wealthier, nonindigenous communities, it is considered appropriate for men to work and women to take care of the home and children. This is slowly beginning to change, with more women moving into positions of leadership and becoming involved in politics; however, the tradition of machismo is still strong in Bolivia.
Be aware that women still face more discrimination in the workplace than men, and some communities may not consider it appropriate for women to work outside the home.
In the indigenous communities, Bolivian men may work long hours outdoors or as laborers. Women in these communities are often considered the heads of households and are in charge of the family’s finances. They are more likely to work than non-indigenous women, particularly in commerce in the country’s many informal markets. This is especially true in La Paz and the western part of Bolivia. Working in the commercial street markets also allows women to bring their children to work with them. While the country nominally has equal rights for all citizens, women from these communities often face more discrimination in the workplace and are often paid less than their male counterparts.
As a female manager, be trusting, friendly, and open-minded, as some people (both local women and men), might feel uncomfortable with a female boss.
Foreign businesswomen in positions of leadership may face challenges that male colleagues would not. For example, Bolivian men, and even some women, may be uncomfortable having a female boss or may be reluctant to transition power to a woman. Female managers may need to do more to establish their credibility or to get to know their employees. On the other hand, female managers may have some advantages in Bolivia. For example, due to the chivalrous nature of many Bolivians, foreign women working in the country may be less likely to face the same levels of corruption as foreign men.
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