PANEL: Power of the Latinas
Two powerful Latinas share insights on what the true definition of a Latina is, the trials they still face in the workplace, and their forward-looking contribution to our future.
Latino Leaders: Besides culture, race, ethnicity…what makes a Latina?
Karen Elmir: Being born into a Latin America family is in my opinion what makes a Latina. Practices and hobbies of the Latin culture are very unique. I think that someone’s favorite foods; housekeeping habits, spiritual practices and beloved hobbies can definitely classify a person as Latina.
Ana Flores: Our passion for life, laughter, time with friends and family and knowing when just to take it easy.
LL: What are some of the obstacles Latinas have faced and still continue to face to this day?
KE: Immigration is one of the biggest obstacles Latinas face today. Latin immigrant families whether documented or undocumented face serious challenges upon entering and living in the U.S. The loss of the Latin community and other social supports make Latinas vulnerable to stress, depression and a host of other complications.
AF: Since Latinas are such a diverse group and come from so many different backgrounds, it's really hard to generalize and speak for all of us. Yet, it's precisely that misconception that we're a homogenous group that has been very damaging to us and the perfect vehicle to perpetuate the stereotypes that we're hot, sexy and loud.
LL: What kind of value can Latinas bring to a business or a corporate?
KE: I can’t speak for all Latina’s out there, but when I was a child, my father always instilled me with a strong sense of family and of community. I recognize how important it is to have a bond with the people you do business with and to get to know them beyond surface level small talk. This has greatly helped me in my career- as I always make sure to be mindful to the wants and needs of prospective buyers in order to match them with their dream home. I think that this is an important quality that translates across all industries and corporate sectors.
AF: The type of perspective any capable woman can.
LL: What has kept you from giving up?
KE: I am an extremely determined person. I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I also have an extremely close knit support system who wouldn’t let me give up no matter how hard I tried.
AF: The absolute and fierce conviction I have for the Latina community and that our voices and stories matter and deserve an equal platform. I don't need a lot to keep clearing the path and I know obstacles are a given, but I just take them on as a learning opportunity and the gateway to a new path.
LL: What mindset should we reject if we ever want to see Latinas progress?
KE: I think addressing foreign policy is a mindset we should reject if we want to see Latina progress. Learning to make intersectional connections not only among our own communities, but with other constituencies who are also feeling the heat from the new administration. What seems to be required is an extended process of translation, where all the ideas are generating in gatherings like these, and in our institutions, bodegas, and street corners, are turned into something that resembles a viable Latino future.
AF: That Latinas don't help each other. The #WeAllGrow community is proof that precisely because we've had a collaboration mindset from the start, we've been able to together create a thriving industry.
LL: Growing up, who was your mentor?
KE: My father’s leadership has guided me all throughout my life. My father is a recognized leader in environmental and public health and has served as Miami-Dade County Health Departments Administrator for the Division of Environmental Health and Engineering since 1994. My father has always showed me how to adapt and take direction in a world of so much diversity. It is this ability that helps me grow.
AF: I didn't really have any. I grew up in El Salvador and was always different than everyone else around me because I was such a nonconformist. That taught me to really listen to and trust my own intuition.
LL: Why is important for Latinas to have mentors?
KE: I think mentors are important for everyone to have, no matter race, ethnicity, age or culture. Mentors provide you with a different perspective on situations and can offer advice to steer you in the right direction.
AF: For young Latinas, it's important because we want them to be able to see women like them in successful roles and/or taking on full control of their lives. They also need sponsors that will open up doors for them and validate their worth.
LL: What kind of impact would you like to have?
KE: One of my biggest aspirations is to serve as a mentor to young women and men – both professionally and in everyday life. We are capable of anything we put our minds to – and its easy to forget that sometimes. Having a strong support system has enabled me to get to where I am today, and I’d love to be able to provide that to others.
AF: To have a global community of Latinas that are connecting and learning from each other to elevate all our voices and stories.