Q. Do you believe young Latinas face different obstacles than you did in their efforts to reach the highest levels in their organizations, in government positions and on corporate boards?
The differences come from the commitment each woman makes to achieve her own success. Yes, women today are better educated and there is more structure in the selection process. But that woman has to be just as determined and passionate, as other successful women have always been.
When I was young, and even today, you hear of technology industry leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. But you can’t help but notice that there are no women among these pioneers, Latina or otherwise. Why? These men knew exactly what they wanted, had the skills, training and education, and got the expected results. I had limited skills, no formal education, but got addicted to the challenges and opportunities which were coming my way. I never gave up. I was passionate and committed to achieve and succeed. If I did it, other Latinas can do the same. They need to reach for the stars and attain their dreams and not be restrained by any so-called obstacles they encounter. Anything is possible. I’m a living example of that.
Q. Describe the moment when you realized you were recognized as a viable force as a Hispanic businesswoman and as a leader?
There are many words associated with leadership. I however, have three: passion, excellence and execution. Those three words are what came to mind when I learned of my recognition as the 2013 Latina Pioneer Award recipient. I was thrilled... and felt great accomplishment, not only for me, but on behalf of all Hispanic women.
Q. What do you know now that you wish you knew decades earlier?
The absence of information, resources, mentoring and limited education were real impediments in the ’70 and ’80s when many Latinas, including myself, began our search for meaningful jobs. I wish I knew then how the selection process for certain positions worked. I was never taught.
Today, Latinas have become more strategic in pursuing their goals. That’s why, since 1986 when we founded the Executive Leadership Program of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, a national program to train Latinas as national leaders, we always include a week of training at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and at the Center for Creative Leadership. These trainings provide critical information on executive search and other needed skills to find the right job. I wish I had this resource back when I first began my career. However, I am thrilled to be able to provide it to thousands of women now through NHLI, www.nhli.org
Q. Because of globalization, are there more opportunities for Latinas and do you feel that the U.S. government and corporations are identifying those opportunities? What unique contributions do Latinas bring?
Yes, there are more opportunities now for Latinas. As more and more corporations become global players, Latinas have more and more prospects for work. A wealth of job opportunities lies within the 40,000 Non-Governmental Organizations operating throughout the world. These NGOs have a budget of $20.6 billion.
The U.S. government made a proactive move in 2011 when it created Business USA, an umbrella entity which combines the assets and resources of 14 federal agencies including The White House. The goal is to assist businesses lacking the resources to pursue opportunities abroad. This provides greater opportunities for Latinas.
Today, more than years ago, the need to be global and exposed to other cultures and languages is becoming more essential in succeeding in business. Many Latinas understand their own cultural heritage ... and that can be an asset to a global corporation.
Q. Describe your perfect day.
I could consider planning a trip to my 110th world destination, finding the right man on Match.com, buying designer clothes galore or undergoing plastic surgery to look younger. But no, I wouldn’t do that. I could consider a day of nirvana in the California mountains. That’s an option.
Today has been one of those lazy Sundays I love, almost a perfect day. I stayed up last night finishing Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I was already doing some meditation by 8 a.m. followed by a cortadito with Sunday papers in tow. I turned on the morning news programs ... and even gave the Fox people a chance, and the morning was gone.
After a light lunch, I headed to theaters and watched two movies. Then, I headed back home, to my pajamas and my pinot to observe the many moods of Biscayne Bay. At last, it was time to jump back in bed and forecast the coming week.