Racism or curiosity? Where are you from?

March 27th, 2012

Anyone with an accent, dark skin, or Asian features knows it. One of the most common questions we get asked is, “Where are you from?” Usually, it comes right after you exchange names but sometimes, if you’re a New York City cabbie for instance, that question may get asked even if your questioner hasn’t seen your face.

Humans are curious creatures, and most of the time those asking –myself included—are looking for a way to connect. When people find that you’re from their home town or city, they might ask you what school you went to. Or they might mention an acquaintance who lives in your town, works in your company or attends the same church. We do this all the time.

But what happens when people who were born in this country, or those who are second or third generation American, continue to be asked,

“Where are you from?” And when they answer,
“Newark, New Jersey,” they still get,
“No, really, where are you from?”
“Newark, New Jersey.”
“But where are your parents from?”
“Newark, New Jersey.”

Usually, this line of questioning doesn’t stop until you answer what they really want to know, “My great grand parents came from Guadalajara, Mexico.”

Although the intention of the person asking the question may be good (they may be interested in finding out more about you), the impact is often what we call a microaggression, a verbal or non-verbal act that is indirect and often invisible, through which people express prejudices in a covert way.

In this case, it is as if you are denying this person’s identity as an American. As if their identity is forever tied to that of their remote ancestors, something we don’t do with white, Anglo Saxon people. As a matter of fact, this question means something entirely different to a white person. It means what city or town were you born in. And if you kept on asking, “No, really, where are you from?” They’d look at you as if you were crazy or deaf.

Putting up with these kinds of microaggressions on a daily basis hurts, and inevitably, it creates resentment. Think of comments such as, “No offense but Hispanics are all loud. And don’t get me wrong, my best friend is Hispanic,” as if that qualified the speaker to generalize about a whole group. Or the surprised observation about an African American who speaks well, “She’s so articulate,” which in a subtle way implies most blacks are not. Or the comment, “When I look at you, I don’t see color. You are different than other Latinos (or Blacks),” denying that person’s dark skin which is part of their identity.

The truth is that there’s a microaggression in each one of these comments, although most likely those making them think they are being complimentary. The problem here is the incongruence between intention and impact.

I’m not pointing fingers. No one group owns the patent on microaggressions. At one time or another, most of us have said or done something that made someone different from us feel uncomfortable. Most of it comes from ignorance of what triggers these feelings in others. A lot of it is lack of cultural capital.

The best way to minimize these hurtful acts is to be aware of your intention and carefully imagine the impact that your words or behavior have on someone with a different background.

And if you really are curious about where your cabbie is from, maybe you could start by sharing something about yourself.

“Hey, I’m Peter Van Der Haas, and my parents are from Holland. What’s your heritage?” or “What’s your ancestry?” That may go a long way toward your cabbie taking the shortest route to your destination.

Mariela Dabbah’s new book Poder de Mujer was just released by Penguin.

This Op Ed appeared on Fox News Latino in March, 2012

Are Latina TV reporters too sexy for the job?

February 25th, 2012

When social media explodes around the question of, “Who was that ridiculous Latina chick in the red dress at the Super Bowl media day,” I pay attention. The chick in question was Marisol González, the reporter for Televisa Deportes.

Wearing a super tight, red mini-dress with her luscious, wavy brown hair flowing down to her waist, the striking reporter was at the media event interviewing players along with all the other reporters. But of course, she didn’t look like any of the other reporters.

Her outfit was just as sexy as those favored by her competitor, Inez Sainz, from TV Azteca, who last year was at the center of an investigation following a “locker room incident” where some players made jokes and comments about her appearance. I wonder why.

The fact that these two reporters are not only allowed but very likely encouraged to flaunt their great attributes by their employers speaks volumes of the deeply engrained sexism in the Hispanic culture. I know many men who don’t speak a word of Spanish but watch the morning shows and the evening news to see the sexy hostesses and the weather girls.

There’s nothing wrong with leveraging what you’ve got to achieve your goals. Hey, men tilt the scale in their favor using their deep, authoritative voices, taking up more space and even faking self-confidence when necessary.

The problem with übersexy reporters who pose in bikinis and wear skimpy clothing to do their jobs is that you can’t take them seriously and they devalue the profession. When Inez Sainz describes herself on her website as the “World Hottest Sports Reporter” who “is best known because of her sexy looks” and “is hot, talented and has a great smile,” it makes me wonder, why not chose a career as a model, spokesperson for a sun block brand, or even have her own variety show? If her body and her looks are her best attributes, then she’s miscast as a reporter.

Why do I care? For two reasons: First, because the journalistic profession requires people who take their job seriously. Until the industry stops sanctioning looks over substance there will be limited opportunities for the thousands of brilliant female journalists who work hard to get in front of a camera. And second, because this lack of professional attitude (and attire) impacts all of us. Playing to the sexy Latina stereotype contributes to smart Latinas not being taken as seriously as they should be.

I hope this piece encourages a healthy debate on the subject of what is appropriate dress for different professions. But until some changes are made, it’s only fair that all the Spanish TV networks demand that their male anchors, sportscasters and weathermen show some skin. What about some six packs and a tight pair of black briefs for us ladies to look at? Old-Spice man anyone?

This blog first appeared on Fox News Latino.

How to mentor when you don’t have time

February 25th, 2012

Julie Stav, one of my mentors for my media career


I recently invited one of my mentees to come with me to a TV appearance. She was looking to break into broadcasting and I thought this was a perfect occasion for her to meet the show’s producer, the anchor and the news director. We met first for coffee and chatted briefly about her ongoing career exploration, and then we headed to the studio, where she also had the opportunity to meet the two executive women who were joining me for a round table.

While my co-panelists and I recorded the interview, the young woman spent some time talking to the news director and the producer about opportunities in the media. She asked lots of questions and got some focused guidance. I call this “mentoring on the go.”

For the new generation of young professionals entering the workforce, the value of having mentors cannot be overstated. But often in the Latino community, it’s hard to come by executives or prominent leaders who are available to mentor others—mainly because given the relatively small number of Latinos in the executive ranks, they receive a disproportionate number of requests to mentor other Latinos.

As a community, however, we are faced with a great need for increased mentorship of our youth and our mid-career professionals if we are to claim the leadership roles, which is so critical to making our growing numbers count. So it’s time for all of us to step up as mentors. Naturally, the number of mentees you can help will vary depending on the level of responsibility you already have. You may be able to take on three to five people at a time, or you may be able to focus on only one. But whether you’re mentoring one person or five, the question is: How can you mentor effectively without this worthy activity impinging on your own career?

Begin by identifying high-potential candidates: people who are honest about seeking help and who want to help themselves. People willing to work hard, set goals, follow through with any task you assign to them regarding their professional or personal development, and put as much time and effort into the relationship as you will. This usually involves students and young professionals who are interested in a mutually beneficial relationship—individuals who value your input, time and expertise and are willing to reciprocate with their own experience in areas where you could use help. (Learning to use social media, anyone?) In many companies, this is called “reverse mentoring.”

The next step is to find out as much as you can about your mentees’ goals, dreams, education, and the sector or company of their interest. You need to have a thorough fact-finding conversation so that you have a clear picture of how and when to involve them in your daily activities.

The third step is to invite your mentees to job-shadow you for a day or a week; to support the work you do with non-profit organizations; and to bring them to special events, meetings, conferences, and other activities you attend.

The advantage of this strategy is that you can still offer one-on-one attention to your mentees while you expose them to key contacts and valuable experiences. You have a chance to see them in action and provide immediate feedback during a debriefing session after each event. Often, you can sign up some of the contacts to which you introduce your mentees at these activities to help address specific issues with them, just as the news director and producer did with the young woman of my story. This additional help contributes to two positive outcomes: mentees receive sound advice from experts you trust while at the same time, they expand their network.

In terms of the mentoring experience, it feels more real, dynamic and reciprocal, which I find more valuable and sustainable for both parties involved. In addition, it is much more time-efficient than scheduling individual meetings and phone calls with a number of mentees.
As leaders in our respective fields it is our collective responsibility to help train the next generation of leaders. Closing your door to those seeking your help using the argument that you barely have time to go to a conference for your own personal development, much less to mentor several people, won’t cut it. Finding a strategy that allows you to mentor high potentials and attend that conference, priceless.

This blog first appeared on Fox News Latino.

The funniest mistakes I made in English

October 19th, 2011

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Regardless of where you stand on the Spanglish debate, for those of us who live in both languages there comes a time when you will inevitably put your foot in your mouth. Case in point: I was trying pants at a cute little store in Buenos Aires. I came out of the fitting room, checked myself in the mirror and said, “Estos pantalones no hacen nada por mi,” literally, “These pants don’t do anything for me.” Only in Spanish, that sounds absolutely ridiculous, which is exactly why the confused sales woman asked, “What were you expecting them to do?”

In terms of language, that was a pretty bad trip. Later that same week, as I was riding in a taxi, the driver took the service road instead of the main highway. Concerned, I asked the driver, “¿Por qué toma la ruta de servicio?” To which he replied with what I might have taken as an insult to my Argentinian pride, “Are you from Uruguay or something?” The word I should’ve used was “colectora,” rather than the literal translation of “service road.”

These mistakes don’t just happen when I’m back visiting family in my native country. They also happen at much less appropriate times, such as when I’m presenting in front of a large audience. Usually, Murphy’s Law is in full swing during these occasions, and the more important the audience the deeper my foot goes into my throat. A good example is the time when I was sharing the importance of networking with great speakers at conferences. I said, “They usually have a very large rooster of contacts.” The good thing is that I usually catch myself just as the words are leaving my mouth. “Or is it roster?”

As bad as that sounds, that wasn’t half as bad as when talking about leveraging the Latino advantage in the workplace I said that, “Latinos create strong bondage with other people.” Not two seconds had gone by and I added, “I mean bonds, bondage is something else, right?” But of course it was already too late and the audience was laughing hysterically, while I hoped nobody was recording the presentation for a quick YouTube upload.

Spanish language learners suffer through these mishaps all the time as well. How many times have you heard people say about a situation, “Estoy embarazada” (I’m pregnant) when what they really want to say is, “Estoy avergonzada”? Or, “Estoy constipada” (I’m constipated) instead of ,“Estoy resfriada” (I have a cold)? , “No me realicé” (I didn’t make myself) instead of , “No me dí cuenta” (I didn’t realize). Or, “Te voy a introducir a Pedro” (I’m going to insert you into Pedro) instead of, “Te voy a presentar a Pedro” (I’m going to introduce you to Pedro).

Although these false cognates, literal translations, and similarly sounding words that mean entirely different things in Spanish and English are usually a source of confusion, they can also be a great way to poke fun at yourself. Which is the best way to deal with the situation even for public speakers like myself. Just as I publicly acknowledge I’m prepositionally challenged, most of the time when I make a mistake I self-correct, or I candidly ask for help from the audience when I forget a word or I can only think about it in Spanish. The trouble is what do you do when the audience doesn’t speak Spanish?

My friend Brian is fond of reminding me of the time when I was sharing a story about trying to get his girlfriend to come for a walk with me. I had run into her early in the morning as she was walking her dog. “But she was wearing… what do you call those shoes you wear in the house?” And he looked at me in disbelief and asked, “Slippers” And I just went on, “Right, she was wearing slippers so I knew she would say no to my invitation.” From that day on, every time he sees me he says, “What do you call the… slippers???” I tell him that until he learns to speak a second language, he won’t earn the right to tease me.

The truth is that if you only speak one language you save yourself all of this trouble. But then again, you don’t get all the benefits of being multilingual and multicultural.

So here’s my recommendation for those fortunate enough to be suffering from embarrassing (or shall I say “pregnant”?) moments such as the ones I just shared: lie back, relax and enjoy the ride!

An earlier version of this column appeared on Fox News Latino and Huffington Post

The power of a bilingual brain

September 16th, 2011

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I’ve been an English language learner since I was 6 years old, first in my native Argentina and then as a young adult in the United States. I studied the language in an academic environment, thus my almost perfect fluency. “Almost” being the operative word here.

A few years ago when I began my career as a writer and public speaker, I decided to publicly acknowledge that I am prepositionally challenged. That’s right. On and in – two apparently innocuous monosyllables—have been at the forefront of my ongoing tango with English.

My friend and personal editor, Susan Landon (by now, my not-so-secret weapon), has had the biggest belly laughs and hair pulling episodes while editing my blogs, columns, books and anything else I throw her way. And, as I believe in the literary adage “show, don’t tell,” here is one of our latest exchanges to help you fully appreciate my grammatical handicap.

I had sent Susan a new Op-Ed, which I had originally entitled: “Black Woman on the Golf Course.” (Admittedly, I had previously checked via phone with her that it was “on the golf course.”) My subject line, however, read: “Black woman in the golf course.”

Susan – It’s ON the golf course!!!!
Me – Sorry, wrong subject line but the title is correct. Did you notice I used your favorite word “eschew”?
Susan – Yes, I noticed “eschew” and I wondered where on (not IN) earth that came from!! You are really stretching your wings. :-)
Me – You are such a great influence in me!
Susan – It’s: influence ON me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can’t catch a break.

In my defense (and the defense of many second language learners!) there’s little rhyme or reason for the grammatical rules of these two little devils. You wait in line at the store but you’re online on the Internet. Someone is on your side but in your mind. They are on your team but in your heart. Something is on TV, on the radio and on a website, but it’s in a book. It’s on a continent but in a country; in Manhattan but on Long Island. Come on! (Or should I go with “Come in, take a seat. Experience life as a second language learner!”)

Over the years, I have repeatedly studied the many rules that regulate prepositions trying to discover the patterns that elude me to no avail. So, I decided to settle for the second best thing besides speaking prepositionally perfect English: Knowing that being a frequent user of both Spanish and English delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, makes me better at multitasking, and allows me to be keenly aware of what’s important and what’s not at every moment.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuroscientist who has spent 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind, says that, according to her research, 5- and 6- year-olds who are bilingual “manifest a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.” How does that work? Dr. Bialystok explains: “There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what’s relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them. If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.”

After reading this interview a few months ago, I felt a little bit better about my failures and began to plot a strategy. I was thinking of just mumbling something that sounds in-between on/in something like… “en” (which is the preposition we use in Spanish for both “in and on”) so nobody can tell which preposition I’m using. I was getting ready to start using my new solution when Susan called me out on doing something similar with two other pairs of words.

Susan – “Do you know the difference between ‘run’ and ‘ran’ and between ‘hang out’ and ‘hung out’? Because you always seem to mumble them and I always wonder which one you meant. I’m starting to think that you just don’t know which one is which.”

Me – “I just go with the same pronunciation for both because I can’t hear the difference between the present and the past tense and I can’t be bothered.”

Susan – “Well, that’s like me saying ‘ella fui a su casa’ instead of ‘ella fue a su casa’ and telling you I can’t be bothered,” she said using as an example the wrong conjugation of the verb “to go” in Spanish. Now that got my attention.

So, I’ve decided to practice my pronunciation of present and past tense for these two verbs because I believe the tense of the verb is often critical to understanding the meaning of what you’re saying.

But when it comes to on/in, I’ll let that slide in support of Dr. Bialystok’s research. It’s now obvious to me that my bilingual brain doesn’t identify those two as relevant information.

This column has appeared on Fox News Latino and on the Huffington Post.

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Do Latinos Help Other Latinos as Much as They Could?

September 4th, 2011

shut-up

A frequent complaint I hear from Latinos trying to break into power circles is that other Latinos who are already there don’t extend a helping hand. I’ve seen it myself. And if you wonder, like I do, why there aren’t more visible Latino leaders or why our share of power is nowhere near the percentage of the Latino population in this country, part of the answer might lie in the lack of a helping Latino hand.

As a media contributor at national and local levels, I have spent the last few years pursuing opportunities in English media, because I believe that in order to expand my message and influence, I need to move beyond talking to an audience which has a similar background to my own. Otherwise, I’m just preaching to the choir instead of raising awareness in a segment of the population that may not understand a Latino perspective.

Unfortunately, like most of you, I have often heard renowned Latinos give public speeches about the importance of pulling up those who follow in their footsteps—then seen them turn around and cut the rope when they are asked for help. A few days ago, I ran into one of those well positioned Latinos who I had personally heard saying that more diversity was needed in the newsroom. Only a few days earlier I had sent him an email asking for help introducing me to one of his producers and he had responded with a suggestion that was not particularly helpful. When we met, he said ‘hello’ from a distance of only five feet and then turned and walked away as I was opening my mouth to follow up on our email exchange. The introduction I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen.

I know the world doesn’t revolve around me and my agenda. That people are protective of their connections and their turf. That many are overworked, understaffed and underpaid. That most high ranking Latinos receive an overwhelming amount of requests that they cannot possibly fulfill, and that these requests often come from people who are not the right candidates for the help they are seeking.

But nobody builds a successful career alone. No matter how smart you are, all successful careers are built upon a large, strong network, and with the help of sponsors who at some point champion you as the right candidate for that awesome opportunity. So, why do people find it so hard to help others who are respected professionals in their fields when they reach the pinnacle of their careers, and it’s within their power to do so? Why is it so difficult to put in a good word on behalf of a fellow professional with an impeccable reputation?

I can’t help question people’s motives. Whenever any one of us resists opening a door, we are shrinking the pie instead of expanding it for all of us. You may do it because you are one of very few Latinos in your company and you don’t want others to perceive you as an activist. You may do it because you don’t want your bosses to think your personal network is mainly Hispanic. You may do it because you fear that if other Latinos walk in they may take something away from you. Whatever the reason, in the end you are hurting yourself, too.

The truth is that if you have to protect yourself in such a way, it probably means you’re not as indispensable as you think. Or you are the “token Latino” in the wrong company and eventually they will get rid of you, too. Whatever the reasons for your protectionism, they are likely to backfire. In practical terms, you are putting up a stumbling block for all Hispanics trying to move into circles of power, something that in the end affects all of us. Because as long as we continue to have such poor representation at executive levels in the private and public sectors of this country, the Hispanic community will continue to be discounted. We don’t need one leader. We need many leaders who can carry the very diverse voices of this community.

So, while you’re busy making sure nobody else climbs the ladder next to you, you are missing the chance of a lifetime: to become the power broker for every Latino and Latina of high caliber. To create a legacy of leadership beyond your own and be remembered as someone who helped set the stage for a new conversation in this wonderful country of ours.

An earlier version of this column appeared on Fox News Latino on July 27, 2011 under a different title.

Latinos: No Power Other than “Purchasing Power”?

August 5th, 2011

ublado-looking-at-books-reading
In my Op Ed about the lack of Latinas on the list of “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” published by Crain’s New York Business, I suggested the culprit for the blatant absence might simply be the homogenous network of the editors. Namely, not knowing people beyond their own circle of Anglo Saxon women from which to draw candidates. Some readers quickly suggested the creation of a list of the “50 Most Powerful Latinas,” something that in one form or another already exists thanks to the compilations put together by publications such as Latina Style, Hispanic Business, Working Mother Media, etc.

Besides, the whole point of my column was to suggest that we stop thinking of each other as belonging in one bucket or another and get us to start thinking of people who impact and influence society at large. The purpose of pointing out that there were no Latinas (and very little diverse talent) on the list that inspired the post wasn’t to segregate Latinos into a separate cluster but to integrate us into the group portrayed as powerful.

You may think that I’m blowing the importance of these lists out of proportion – That they are frivolous and that “nobody really cares about them.” To me, however, they reflect who we consider influential in our culture and who determines who is influential.

And besides, for the people who make the cut, there’s a boatload of free publicity, and their visibility coefficient shoots up substantially bringing along a series of other subtle and perhaps subliminal side effects like credibility, employability and overall power.

Power brokers trade in circles with other power brokers. So, if you’re not featured on those lists and you think you are a leader, doesn’t your consistent absence imply that maybe you are not so powerful?

Now, there is something to be said in terms of our own responsibility as Latinos in all this. We, as a plural, multi-national community with various degrees of acculturation, need to step up to the plate.

If for years you’ve been hiding your background from your employers and colleagues so that you wouldn’t be pigeonholed, you need to reconsider the implications of staying in the shadows as a Latino. Now that U.S. Census figures are forcing everyone to understand Latinos as consumers and develop a more inclusive workforce, you might actually be missing out on leveraging your cultural insights and standing out as a leader.

On the other hand, if you spend most of your time attending Hispanic events and notice that you have few non-Latinos in your network, you may want to sign up for some general market conferences where you can mingle with people who navigate in different circles than you. This healthy interaction will eventually result in more Anglo-Americans becoming more aware of the kind of work you do and how relevant you are in your industry. As you forge these relationships, they will hopefully lead to invitations to attend powerful events, present at general market conferences, join VIP committees and volunteer in beloved charities.

The point is, if we stay in a silo it’s harder for others to find us. Regardless of your level of influence, the only way to make it known more broadly is to transcend your own circle, and for that you will have to get out of your comfort zone.*

*This column first appeared in AOL Noticias 11.7.11

The power of social media to move the needle on diversity and inclusion

July 21st, 2011

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After two weeks of writing Op Eds and blogs on why there weren’t any Latinas listed on Crain’s New York list of Most Powerful Women of New York, after appearing on Café CNN, Notimujer, NY1 “Pura Política” and just when I began to think that it would take a very long time to change things, something magical happened.

I got an email from Danielle Kwateng, Editorial Assistant at Glamour magazine, who read my Seriously Crains? No Powerful Latinas in New York? Op Ed and asked me if I could nominate a few downright fabulous Latinas under 25 to be honored in a group of 21 women across the country. She thought that through Latinos in College I was sure to be connected with lots of women who would be a perfect fit.

I was ecstatic. It meant someone was listening and was ready to take action. Someone “got it” and understood that if you want more diversity in the lists you are creating you just have to reach out to circles of people who are different from the ones you usually draw your talent from and ask for help. That there is no lack of Latino leaders in this country. There’s a lack of awareness by non-Latinos of who the leaders are.

Danielle’s email also proves the power of social media to move the needle on diversity and inclusion. It is only through the large number of people who shared with their networks the columns and blogs I wrote on this topic that the right person read the piece and acted on it. It proves that when we raise our voices and work collaboratively to help each other we can achieve great feats in a relatively short time.

Here’s to all of you who have helped get this message out and who continue to do so day in and day out. This is only the beginning. Cheers!

No powerful Latinas in New York City. Seriously?

July 3rd, 2011

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During the last few months I’ve been sending letters to the editors of general market publications such as Time magazine and Crain’s New York Business complaining of the fact that there are either too few or no Latinos at all in the lists they love to put together. Whether it Time’s Most Influential People or Crain’s “40 under 40″ or “50 Most Powerful Women”, there’s a worrisome absence of Latino leaders in these lists. Is this because there are no Latino leaders? No entrepreneurs under 40? No powerful women in New York? No. It’s likely because the committees that nominate and select the winners are not diverse enough. They make recommendations based on who they know and they ask their own network to suggest others that they know, perpetuating the nomination and selection of the same kind of people. If you look at this week’s 50 Most Influential Women list, you’ll see that it is a white girls club.

Why is this important? Because visibility breeds more visibility and opportunities. It also perpetuates the perception that there are no Latino and Latina leaders out there, nobody worth mentioning in a general market list. And what’s worse, no inspiration for our younger generation. If they don’t see diversity in the higher ranks, how are they expected to believe there’s a path for them?

I’m not saying that Latinos are not being honored in lists by Diversity Inc.magazine, Hispanic Business and Latina Style magazine amongst others. But Latinos and diverse talent in general should be featured alongside white talent if we are going to continue making inroads at the higher levels of society. So, here’s the letter that I sent to Crain’s New York Business. Feel free to use it as a template to create your own letters and send them to all the publications and media outlets that don’t realize that Latinos are more than just 50.4 million consumers of their advertisers’ products. We are powerful, we are leading companies and industries and contributing enormously to the growth of this country.

Letter to the Editor, Crain’s New York Business,

I was thrilled to see that you decided to publish again the “50 Most Powerful Women” list to highlight the great accomplishment of women in New York City. They are an inspiring, accomplished group of professionals who prove that women make great leaders.

As I went through the list though (just as when I go through all of your lists), I noticed that it really only features the “white girls club.” With the exception of one African American (Edith Cooper), one Chinese American (Andrea Jung) and one Indian born American (Indra Nooyi) there is little diversity in this list and there’s a blatant absence of Latinas.

Maybe you haven’t heard of Mónica Lozano, CEO of Impremedia (just named by Adweek Magazine one of the 10 Most Influential Executives in U.S. Hispanic Media), Jacqueline Hernández, Chief Operating Officer Telemundo; Ruth Gaviria, Senior Vice President Marketing Univision; Lucía Ballas-Traynor, recently named co-founder of Cafemom’s Hispanic site and former publisher of People en Español; Lisa Quiroz, Senior Vice President- Corporate Responsibility Time Warner; Galina Espinoza, co-President Latina Media Ventures (which publishes Latina Magazine), Ana Duarte McCarthy, Chief Diversity Officer Citigroup, Jessica K. Asencio, Chief Administrative Officer Investment Bank JPMorgan Chase; Enedina Vega, Publisher Multicultural Ventures Meredith, and many, many others.

As you must know, according to the U.S. Census there are now 50.4 million Hispanics in this country and this group was responsible for 50% of the population growth during the past decade. As a loyal reader of Crain’s New York Business, I can’t help but wonder why your magazine so seldom covers positive stories about this community and seldom (if ever) features Hispanic entrepreneurs and executives.

With one out of every four people under 18 in the U.S. being Hispanic, this population is not only where consumer growth is today but also the workforce of the future. Something both your magazine and your readers need to start giving serious consideration.

Cordially,

Mariela Dabbah
Author Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success, co-author The Latino Advantage in the Workplace and several other books on success for Latinos.

Do Latinas dress too sexy for their own good?

April 6th, 2011

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    In a recent post on the Latinos in College Facebook page we asked if Latinas dress too sexy for the workforce or for a professional environment. It was interesting to read our fans reactions. Here’s a sample:
    “We have curvy figures and everything just looks great on us!” – Carmen Guerrero“

    “I think we just have great taste and “consequently” what we choose to wear accentuates our bodies… I mean when I watch Good Morning America on NBC and Despierta America on Univision I’m like there is no comparison. Latinos are looking fresh all the time.” Faustino Hernanez

    “I think it’s just the shape of our bodies. I can wear something really baggy and you can still see my curves.” Vikki.

    Yes, Latinas tend to be curvier and pay more attention to their appearance. (Full disclosure: I wore lipstick to the ER a few weeks back!) But that doesn’t mean that they are always dressing appropriately when it comes to the workplace or any professional environment. This is true not just for Latinas but for many young ladies who have some difficulties distinguishing what kind of clothes to wear for different occasions. If you don’t have female role models who work in a professional setting, it can be a challenge to figure it all out on your own.

    Here are a few pointers that might help.

  • 1. Use the heavy makeup for a night out. For a job interview, an internship or a professional conference, try a more discreet do. The same goes for your accessories. The principle here is “less is more.”
  • 2. Skirts should be to your knees or below. Not above. Favor those that are not too tight so that the shape of your butt doesn’t become part of the conversation once you walk away. Choose skirts that are either a solid color or subtle prints. And fabrics that are not see through or lacey.
  • 3. Blouses or shirts should not show cleavage, they should fit you nicely but not too snuggly. Again, choose solids over busy prints and favor fabrics that are not see through, shiny, or have inscriptions. Do you really want a contact who could be your future boss read: “You say bitch like is a bad thing” printed on the back of your shirt?
  • 4. Wear a bra even when you don’t need one.
  • 5. Wear stockings whenever possible. Even in 2011 bear legs are still too informal for most professional environments.
  • 6. Choose your shoes carefully. You want to wear pumps with a regular heel (about 3 inches.) We all know you’ll be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, but for this occasion, it’s better to leave your dancing shoes at home.
  • 7. If you wear a pant-suit (or pants and a jacket), chose slacks that are not stretchy and this includes any clothes you’d use to exercise, or go on a stroll with your mom on a Sunday morning. No thighs, no leggings, no palazzo made of stretchy cotton, or velour, no sweatpants, you get the picture.
  • 8. If you look awesome in a dress with a jacket, go for it! Nobody said you had to wear a suit. As long as the dress is not a little tiny summery thing, with spaghetti straps… Then we’re back to: leave it in your closet for that date you have coming up next weekend.
  • 9. And while we are talking about pasta, no tops with spaghetti straps that adhere to your body like a suede glove.

    The secret is to embrace your figure, find clothes that fit well but not too tightly, that highlight your best features and make you look elegant and project the image of a leader. When I have to dress for a business meeting, I always find a way to show my personality, either with some unique accessories, or wearing an unusual jacket that still looks professional.

    It’s not only about feeling confident and great in the clothes you choose, it’s also about what others perceive when they see you. So, when you look at yourself in the mirror ask yourself: “If a woman came to me looking like this, would I trust her to lead others? Would I assign her responsibilities? Would I coach her to grow in the company because I see potential in her?” These questions will help you look at your appearance differently.

    In an increasingly diversified workplace, it is to be expected that eventually, people will be more open to Latinas flashier style, but this shift hasn’t happened yet, so if you want to have as many opportunities open to you as you deserve, you will have to do some adjusting. I’m not suggesting that you become someone you are not. Only that you don’t let your clothes do all the talking before you even open your mouth and let the world know how smart you are.