A corporate corner office, calling on my Latina comadres...
Originally published April 16, 2002
Published on LatinoLA: November 14, 2005
My concept of an ideally perfect society consists of me sitting in my corporate and corner office and having the power to call upon any of my Latina girlfriends, likewise sitting in their corporate and corner offices, and addressing and resolving the many political, economic and policy issues of our day.
Now, how do I get there? It is not easy.
Well, I still don't have my corporate and corner office. But just imagine that I did (I am one who would love a corner office!). There are not many Latina girlfriends of mine that have or desire a corporate and corner office. Why is that? Well, the answers are many, deep-rooted and heavy.
Some households where Latinas live lack a command of the English language. Some households where Latinas live are diseased with drugs, alcohol, violence, and spousal and sexual abuse. These dysfunctions contribute greatly to submissiveness, disorientation and a lack of confidence.
Now don't take me wrong, I don't mind calling, and I do call, upon many of my non-Latina girlfriends and talk politics, economics, and policy on a regular basis. But sometimes, in my day-to-day activities, I feel a void. I never seem to have the opportunity to talk to a Latina who is an equal in my corporate day-to-day world.
I sincerely understand the concept of the male bonding and how they have a comfort level calling upon their male friends sitting in the corporate and corner office and resolving the many issues of our day. I will give them benefit of the doubt and conclude that it has to do with comfort and no intentional effort to exclude and discriminate against Latinas. It is just human nature to want to talk to someone that you trust and can communicate with on an equal footing. Playing golf, tennis or darts goes a long way in male bonding.
What can we do to fill this void? Well, try to convince as many Latinas as possible to pursue a high level of education.
But, when some Latinas obtain a high level of education, they don't necessarily wish to be housed in a corporate corner office. Most professional Latinas pursue professions in the non-corporate boardroom. Who is that CEO from Hewlett Packard? Can you imagine a Latina in that role? I can!
Why don't Latinas have a burning desire to serve in the corporate boardroom? It could be a lack of role models. Granted, we don't have many.
It could be a cultural issue. The Latino culture is known for being extremely macho, paternalistic, and protective. It could be a lack of opportunity. The opportunities are few.
Notice I emphasize the need for economic power. Many years ago, I used to say that we are in need of political power. Over the past twenty years, politics has served as an equal playing field for us Latinas. We have the masses, we know now how to get out the vote and how to articulate our issues in a public forum.
It is no coincidence that Latinas are moving at a fast pace. Upon a cursory review of the California political landscape you will find that it's not Latinos who are coming into power. It's primarily Latinas! No fewer than four Latinas represent Southern California in Congress, and a fifth is likely to follow in November. Add to that two state senators and a leader in the Assembly, not to mention a Los Angeles County Supervisor.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which keeps tabs on such things across the country, reported that at the end of last year, Latinas constituted 38%, or 1,952, of the Hispanics who held elective positions across the United States. These numbers clearly demonstrates that Latinas have the ability to lead in a mainstream society.
Don't take me wrong, we could always use more Latinas in public office (Note: we still don't have a Latina on the City Council of the City of Los Angeles.) However, we must graciously acknowledge our accomplishments. We have demonstrated our ability to speak at the podium and sit at the dais along with other non-Latinas and successfully address the issues of the day.
So we have made positive inroads into politics. Now we must focus on economic power. The power of the purse should be taken literally by us Latinas.
Unfortunately, we still have an overabundance of Latina unskilled laborers that are unaware of the opportunities for upward mobility and economic power that must be accomplished before we may sit in the corporate boardroom. We still have an overabundance of Latinas who wish to attend college but cannot afford it and lack the resources and sophistication to access important information regarding grants and scholarships.
I believe that one way to accomplish my goal is to have all Latinas help each other along the way.
A perfect example of how we can help each other occurred to me the other day-- I exploited this opportunity to the max.
A company representative, who wished to do business with my company, called upon me. I knew there was a Latina who worked in this company. I advised them that if they wanted to work with my company that they had to assign the Latina to work with me. I did this in a pleasant, yet firm tone.
My request was honored.
This is just one example of how we can help each other as well as raise the consciousness of society to the needs of aspiring Latinas. If you have the opportunity, make an effort to help a fellow Latina move up the corporate ladder.
"Hello, is Marisol in? Hello, Marisol, I just wanted to talk to you about the commercial center my company wishes to build on Sunset and Doheny and the and multi-family housing project we wish to build on First and Alvarado. Also, I would like to put in a good word for Lucia who is seeking the CFO position in your company. Also, how much will you commit for the political fundraiser we are sponsoring for Alicia in her race for Mayor. When is that salsa class. . . . "
But then again utopia is idealistic.
Copyright - All Rights Reserved - Julia Sylva, 2002
Julia Sylva is an attorney in private practice, engaged in the representation of public entities, small business & corporate clients and has served as an elected public official and currently serves on various commisions. firstname.lastname@example.org