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