03/08/2012 04:51 pm ET Updated May 08, 2012

International Women's Day: A Latina Look

It seems that as soon as New Year's rolls around, I start looking forward to another significant event which is International Women's Day, a UN-designated holiday observed on March 8.

Each year Accenture conducts external global research about workplace and career issues. This year I looked through the responses and thought of the story the findings tell. An impressive 71 percent of people feel they have work/life balance all or most of the time, but 41 percent say career demands have a negative impact on their family life.

More than half of the women and men surveyed say they are dissatisfied with their jobs, but then two-thirds say they plan to stay with their current employers.

Since we conducted the research in 31 countries, I decided to look closely at the responses from Latin and South America - we conducted the survey in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico - to see if I could find any common themes, any significant differences from the global results, any insight for our teams in these countries and, frankly, for my life as a Latina professional. Overall, the results - globally as well as in these three countries - indicate flux, change and a movement to what I call the new normal. The research did not uncover one standard picture of the working person globally and or the professional in those Latino countries. But they do reveal important insights that all companies can use.

The sense of job dissatisfaction is consistent across Argentina, Brazil and Mexico and is greater in those countries than it is globally. A range of 69-72 percent of respondents in the Latino countries expressed dissatisfaction, while 58 percent of people globally said they were dissatisfied. Additionally, across the Latino countries, work/life balance is consistently the most important factor in respondents' careers. The runner up factor in Argentina and Mexico was compensation, and it was advancement in Brazil.

I expected to find a lot of similarities among my three chosen countries and assumed any differences may have to do with Brazil being such a large and increasingly significant economy. While Brazil did stand out, it was in ways I didn't expect.

When we asked people about barriers to their careers, 42 percent globally cited "lack of opportunity" most frequently. Mexico had exactly the same response (42 percent), while fewer people in Argentina (35 percent) cited lack of opportunity. Surprisingly, more than half (53 percent) of professionals in Brazil named this as the top barrier.

Another surprise came with the responses to the question of whether women had the same opportunities as men. In Argentina and Mexico, approximately half of the respondents said 'yes' (44 percent and 49 percent, respectively). But just 25 percent said 'yes' in Brazil.

I looked at two more questions, including what people said was the most important attribute in advancing a career. Globally one of the top answers was self-confidence and, this time, Brazil was consistent, with 28 percent agreeing globally vs. 25 percent in Brazil. It seems, however, that Argentina and Mexico place more importance on self-confidence, 37 percent and 42 percent, respectively, cited that attribute. Self-confidence is one of my favorite topics. We can't overemphasize how important confidence is for women as they move into senior leadership. With a focus on self-confidence, I wonder if professionals in Argentina and Mexico are positioned particularly well for success.

Finally, I looked at where people get career advice. Insight in this area directly applies to the mentoring, leadership development and career planning programs a company creates and how relevant they will be. I wondered what our respondents in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico would say. Globally, almost a third (32 percent) said they get career advice from family and the Argentinean respondents said the exact same thing. Brazil was higher - with 40 percent - and Mexico, where only 17 percent look to family for advice, was the surprise. It was equally unexpected to learn that 37 percent of the Mexican professionals surveyed said they get their career advice from a professional career coach.

What I take away from these findings - in both the similarities and the differences - is that this new normal offers real opportunity. In it, we can make significant leaps and improvements, and findings like these can lead companies, leaders and employees to new programs and new levels of understanding, achievement and performance.