Five prominent Latina businesswomen shared inspiring personal stories about how they successfully navigate the intersection of career, gender, and culture at the Latinas in Business Panel and Networking Event, hosted by Boston College’s Organization of Latin American Affairs.
The event, which was held in a conference room at 2150 Commonwealth Ave. on Nov. 7, attracted a crowd of mostly women that heard from well-accomplished Latinas in New England employed in industries ranging from media to science and technology.
“By 2060, one in every three women will be Latina,” Enna Jimenez, head of quality assurance and senior director at IDEMIA, said. “I love that stat. We need to be mindful about creating opportunities for people of different backgrounds.”
Ilhiana Rojas Saldana, founder and owner of BeLIVE Coaching and Consulting, shared the hardship of being one of only four or five women in her otherwise all-male chemical engineering class, some 30 years ago.
“My professor, who was also the dean of chemical engineering, did a roll call and then told all the women to stand up,” she said. “He told us to go to the admissions office and change careers because this wasn’t a career for women. He said we shouldn’t spend our parent’s money on an education we wouldn’t use.”
According to Rojas Saldana, nobody dropped out.
“In my mind, it didn’t make sense,” she said. “My brother was an engineer. My dad was an engineer. Why couldn’t I be an engineer?”
Rojas Saldana credits her career success to this mindset. Although others tried to minimize her, she said she never minimized herself.
“If there’s one thing I could tell you all it’s that you have to know your worth,” she said. “You have to know your strengths. You have to know and believe in the value you bring in.”
Pilar Ortiz, director of paid media at Digital Impulse, discussed how she experienced a sense of isolation after moving to Boston due to a lack of Latina communities and representation in high-ranking professional positions.
“One day I was lucky enough to meet WBUR’s salsa show host, José Massó, who told me something really powerful,” Ortiz said. “He said ‘You are standing on the shoulders of giants and I too am standing on the shoulders of giants.’ You might feel alone, but know that someone came before you and you are standing on their shoulders. You are a part of a group of giants for the next generation to stand on.”
Ortiz said she is keenly aware and grateful for the generations of entrepreneurs and founders of newspapers and video stations that came before her.
Laura Regus Alvarez, employee experience consultant at Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Diana Andrade, e-commerce HR audit and controls manager at Chewy, emphasized the importance of mentors as a key to success. Regus Alvarez said that although there has been tremendous progress, there is still work to be done.
“I once heard someone say ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’” Regus Alvarez said. “You’re never too young to be a leader. There’s always someone younger and more inexperienced than you who needs a role model. So be that example for them.”
Jimenez punctuated her colleagues’ leadership message and set attendees’ sights on a future of diversity and personal ownership.
“We need Afro-Latina representation, and we need to hire Latinas of different backgrounds,” Jimenez said. “We need to continue to put in the work and lift each other up.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Julia Wiersum