Getting Ahead as a Latina Business Professional
Latina sisters, this is our moment. Despite all the adversity and barriers our demographic has experienced over the years, the business world has reached a tipping point. Since 2016, 90% of those entering the labor market identify as a minority. Furthermore, the group with the fastest-growing employment rates are Hispanic women. Stats like these give me goosebumps.
Yes, we are still in the minority. Yes, we still face an uphill climb. But the momentum is shifting, and now it’s pushing us forward. We’re being recognized with awards, we’re speaking at major events, and we’re leading multimillion dollar companies. With labor markets so tight, our talents are no longer being ignored. The stage is set, and it’s on us to seize the moment.
I might be the CEO and President of a large, successful company, but I haven’t always been in this position. Success took a lot of hard work, but it also required working together. It’s hard to succeed alone, especially as a minority, but you don’t have to. You can learn from the success stories of other Latinas and by harnessing a number of resources out there for the taking. No matter our position, we can all continue to grow as Latina business professionals.
Which Latinas Do You Look Up To?
Growing up in Silicon Valley, it seemed like the natural role models were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. While I admire and can relate to their vision, drive, and work ethic, as I tried to compare my professional growth to theirs it became difficult to fully connect with their stories. Seeking out Hispanic women in business helped me see a clearer path for myself. If you’re looking for inspiration, there are many Latinas doing great things in business across various industries:
· Grace Puma is the Executive Vice President, Global Operations for Pepsi. She’s accountable for $26 billion and has won several awards, most notably being ranked #2 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Latina list.
· Maria Castañón Moats is the Vice Chair — U.S. and Mexico Assurance Leader for PwC. For Maria, being a minority wasn’t something to overcome; it was something that made her even more qualified as she used her Hispanic heritage to her advantage.
· Maria Martinez is the Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer for Cisco. Her technology background hits close to home for us here in Silicon Valley, and her appearance on the Association of Latino Professionals For America’s Most Powerful Latinas list is inspiring.
· Adriana Cisneros is the CEO of Cisneros, a family business in its third generation. I can especially relate to what it’s like to growing up in a family business and striving to pay respect to the past while evolving for the future.
· Sandra Lopez is the Vice President of Intel Sports. She’s an excellent example for closing out this list due to her powerful quote: “Our voices will be heard only when we have an adequate representation of Latinx in senior-level positions.”
Resources for Latina Professionals
Having someone to look up to makes a big difference in helping Latinas progress their careers, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Right now, you can take initiative by seeking out the resources that were created for professionals like us.
Lifelong learning has been essential to my success in business. Several years after my undergrad experience, I completed the Minority Business Executive Program through the University of Washington. One year after that, I enrolled in the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative Program at Stanford. These are just two examples of insightful educational programs available across the country. If we stop learning, we stop growing. Whether you enroll in a long degree program or participate in a weekend seminar, there are options to help you grow as a Latina in business no matter your location, budget, or schedule.
Formal Organizations and events
· The Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) is a great organization with chapters and events across the country. Their large, yearly convention is especially notable for networking opportunities.
· For those in the IT industry, Latinas in Tech is a non-profit made for you. There are 11 chapters, and it just so happens that the Silicon Valley chapter was the first and remains the largest chapter. The group has connected thousands of women while putting on hundreds of events.
· Many areas across the U.S. have their own Hispanic Chamber of Commerce like the one in Silicon Valley. These can be great resources for learning best practices and meeting others.
· ATR is heavily involved with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Their yearly conference is always a highlight, and it’s a great way to connect with other minority business professionals.
· Finally, there are business conferences all over the country all year round. Regardless of the main purpose of any event, you’re likely to encounter other Latinas like you while you’re attending one. Even if a conference doesn’t have a breakout session for Latinas or minorities, you can still seek out your peers in order to trade stories and form new bonds.
When it comes to resources for any professional, there is one that cannot be left unsaid. The internet grants us the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. From the comfort of your own home, even if it’s while you’re in your pajamas right before bed, you can read an empowering article or watch an inspiring Instagram video created by Latinas for Latinas. The Latino Leaders Magazine is a good starting point, but make sure you’re leveraging LinkedIn as much as possible. Join groups, read articles, and add to the larger discussion at every opportunity. Don’t hesitate to follow and send a message to successful Latina executives who you look up to; you’ll be surprised how eager some will be to lend you their advice and encouragement.
Latina Business Professionals, Unite!
National Hispanic Heritage Month may be in the fall, but we need to be working to progress our careers all year long. As women, we already face obstacles getting ahead in the business world, and being a minority amplifies the adversity we have to overcome. Yet, I know the future is bright. In 1988, there were only nine million Hispanics or Latinos in the U.S. labor force, but today there are over 26 million. By turning adversity into the fuel that drives us, we can work together and enjoy the success we deserve.