STORY INLINE POST
Q: What role do you believe media and digital platforms play in empowering Latinas and other underrepresented groups?
A: Digital media and other platforms play a critical role in ensuring that information is accessible to everyone, especially those who might not easily access it. Digital media is helping to democratize information, just as other forms of media did historically. For example, movements that were once underground used various forms of media, such as newsletters and papers, to spread their message, organize and fundraise. Nowadays, these digital mediums enable us to maintain an open channel of communication, especially as local newspapers shut down, creating information deserts.
Media's significance extends far beyond the dissemination of information and knowledge; it serves as a crucial cornerstone of democracies, empowering people to engage in meaningful discourse and hold their leaders accountable. Digital media has been instrumental in enabling Latinas across the Americas to zoom out and identify areas of intersectionality, study the capacity to scale tested solutions and drive change. For example, digital media is helping institute a Latina Equal Pay Day in the US, a message that clearly resonated with Latinas.
Q: What is needed to better understand and communicate the importance of supporting Latina-founded businesses?
A: In the US, Latinas are the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs and many of them are immigrants. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Latina entrepreneurs have created businesses and jobs that have had a positive impact on local communities and the national economy. We are fortunate to have Latina leaders and entrepreneurs who are tenacious in their desire to survive, build and grow. However, the unfortunate reality is that despite being the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, Latinas are often the first to shut down their businesses due to a lack of equal investment, access to capital and loans, as they are often not connected to the VC community and networks. Consequently, these amazing entrepreneurs who create incredible businesses can only keep them open for a few years because they lack the financial support to keep them going.
There has been a rise in female entrepreneurship in Latin America, a welcome trend that is undercut by their migration to the US. There is a disproportionate, forced migration of women from Latin America to the US looking to escape violence, unstable economies and even the effects of climate change. If we were to provide support and create pathways for these women to stay in their home countries, they could create many businesses and jobs there. It is a missed opportunity due to the lack of support.
The US is benefiting from this brain drain at the expense of Latin American economies. It is tragic that these women are forced to leave their countries in search of better economic opportunities when they have the potential to create their own businesses in the places they want to live.
Q: What are some of the key factors that contribute to the persistent wage gap between men and women and how do these factors vary across industries and occupations?
A: The data clearly indicates that a gender pay gap exists across every industry and sector. Some dismiss the pay gap by chiding Latina women for opting for low-paying jobs, less education or for pursuing “undemanding” career positions. These unfounded myths are easily unraveled by collected data, controlling for industry, education and seniority, which show that Latina women are consistently underpaid from the day they enter the workforce. This problem stems from negative stereotypes fueled by the fact that Latina women are now over-represented in lower-paid jobs, a trend that is reinforced by employers who ask applicants about their salary history. This widespread institutional practice carries discriminatory pay forward and is barred only in a handful of US states, such as California.
To address this challenge, more robust legislation is needed in the US and beyond. This legislation should start with predictive scheduling, organizational transparency and mandatory federal reporting. It should also prohibit employers from asking about salary history. Latinxs have often been discouraged from discussing pay and to be grateful for anything they receive, even if it is unjust or insufficient, and they need to unlearn these practices. If we are being paid in a discriminatory manner, we should be able to call it out.
Q: What are some of the cultural and societal norms in Mexico that influence the representation of women in leadership positions and how can these norms be challenged?
A: The most powerful and strongest woman I have ever known in my life is my 4’10” Mexican grandma Virginia. She embodied the propagated media archetype of strength, respect and natural leadership qualities that make her an ideal businessperson. However, the same media is also responsible for propagating other negative tropes that have undermined how Latina women are perceived in social and professional settings. To escape the latter, Latina women have been delegated to a position of martyrdom, forced to do more with fewer resources and for less. However, there is a difference between service and exploitation, a fine line that Latina leaders have come to understand.
Despite this, Latina leaders have learned to distinguish between the two. As someone who runs three nonprofits, it is my commitment to pay above-market rates, have just policies and provide medical care to our employees' entire families. This commitment stems from my personal understanding of what it is like to work in a place without these benefits. Women who have experienced exploitation are more thoughtful about how they create their businesses or organizations to avoid similar problems. This thoughtful approach is critical to building successful and sustainable organizations that empower people and communities.
Q: What do you hope to see in the future of Latina leadership and how do you see Poderistas and other organizations playing a role in making this vision a reality?
A: I hope for a time when creating programs to promote Latina leaders is not a concerted effort but the norm. Latinas should have access to the support, money and investments they need and it should happen naturally. We are creating these organizations and programs to address the current deficit. As I work on creating these organizations, my ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job so that they are no longer needed.
Latina leaders should be positioned to create opportunities for themselves, making it easier for future generations. We can accomplish this by modeling a different kind of leadership – one that supports and uplifts each other, celebrating each other's successes. This is important because the "crabs in a bucket" mentality used to be prevalent within our community.
Poderistas, or She Se Puede, is a digital lifestyle community and media platform for Latina women to help them leverage their power and transform their lives, families and communities