Posts Tagged ‘hispanic’

The mean girls club

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Panel of executive & non executive women at a P&G Latina conference

Panel of executive & non executive women at a P&G Latina conference

I had lunch with a girlfriend the other day and was surprised to hear yet another Latina executive talk about the “mean girls club.” I was starting to wonder if this was an actual club with locker rooms, a swimming pool and a lounge where all these wicked women got together to plot against their gender-mates. As if the space for women in the top ranks were limited and all the seats taken.

In the two previous weeks I had heard similar stories from other girlfriends and female colleagues, all of them executives, who were having a hard time aligning their management style with the corporate culture of their respective companies. In many situations, the people making things hard for these women were other women.

The truth is that it continues to be a struggle for diverse women to succeed at the highest levels of a corporation — most likely the result of a conservative corporate culture that has a hard time embracing different styles and values combined with the need to further coach and mentor these women.

One of my smartest friends found an outstanding executive coach who not only helps her understand the unwritten rules of the game but also plays the unofficial role of therapist lending an empathetic ear at the end of a migraine-inducing discussion with one of the mean girls. Another one, sadly, decided to quit her high paying job.

So, when it comes to doing what it takes to get your posh office and the corporate credit card, how much is too much? It obviously depends on your goals and your resilience levels. On your priorities and willingness not to take things too personally. On your ability to find allies and mentors, sponsors and advocates within and outside of the organization that can be part of the support network that keeps you focused and learning. And on your commitment to conducting an ongoing introspection.

Let me explain. As you move up in your career, there’s no question that you will constantly have to engage in a profound soul searching to identify what you have learned and what you’re still missing, what cultural traits impact your ability to connect with others and communicate in a productive way. What in your upbringing or in your life experience makes you overreact when someone tries to control you, keep you in a corner, or treat you like you don’t know what you’re talking about in public.

When you commit to this kind of ongoing reflection alone or with the help of a coach, you can identify the areas where you need assistance and seek it. Sometimes the problem stems from the fact that you haven’t identified the source of the conflict because no matter how much you try not to take it personally, every time the mean girl (or the mean boy) says that you are a failure, your gut turns inside out and you become paralyzed. But the moment you realize, for example, that that person makes you feel the way your father made you feel when you were a kid, when nothing you did was ever good enough for him, you can give new meaning to the overreaction and slowly modify your behavior. Because now you know that the paralysis you experience in that situation is a reaction to something else that happened long ago. That you are no longer a vulnerable little girl. That you have lots of tools at your disposal to fight off mean people.

For instance, in this scenario, you could find out about this woman’s life and realize she’s had an abusive childhood and as a result needs to be overly controlling of her environment. Developing some empathy for her may be the first step to developing a better relationship with the witch.

So don’t quit just yet. Lots of women in the workforce need you as a role model who will prove that it’s possible to make it in corporate America. And, bit by bit, we will fashion together a workplace that’s more embracing of our collective cultures. These women need you there to help them fight the dragons.

Scholarships year-round

Monday, November 8th, 2010

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I know lots of top students who graduate with huge student loans and sadly, the main reason is not that they were turned down for financial aid or for scholarships while they were in college. No. The main reason is that they didn’t know where to find the money! So, let’s get a few things straight so that you don’t carry the same burden on your shoulders when you graduate.

1. Every year, you must fill out the FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible, so the government and your school can establish how much grant money you’re eligible for.
2. Visit the Financial Aid office regularly and befriend the staff there. Explain your situation and ask for tips on scholarships you can apply to (sometimes they know about local scholarships that few people know about,) special programs they are familiar with, etc. I know many students who got most of their scholarships this way, by making their presence felt at the Financial Aid office.
3. Use a few different Search Engines and Websites to look for scholarships. For example, use www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com. Fill out the form with as much information about you as possible. These engines will find all sorts of scholarships available to your situation: religion, geographic location, major, labor affiliation of your parents, etc.
4. There are scholarships available after Freshman year as more corporations are interested in supporting students entering their industries and make money available for Engineering, Math, Science, Medicine, Business, Agriculture, Green Technology, etc. The secret is for you to continue searching.
5. Ask locally. Many small businesses want to support their local college and offer scholarships that are not listed on the search engines. Your librarian or Financial Aid person in your school should know. In addition, many alumni set specific funds for certain students. For instance, I know of someone with different colored-eyes who set up a fund for students with her same condition.
6. Consider applying for scholarships as an year-round sport. Schedule time to research, write your essays and put your packages together. Make sure you calendar any deadlines. When you look at the alternative, it’s time well invested!

Like Latinos in College on Facebook to take advantage of a wonderful community that is always there to give you ideas and support your growth!

Do you lose your identity if you’re punctual?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

reloj

I had been walking in the wrong direction for twenty minutes with the most impossible heels. The pain in my right shoulder was getting worse from carrying my computer, and the worst part was that I was going to be late for my presentation. I couldn’t get anyone to answer my calls and I was about to lose it when I was finally able to reach my contact and let her know about my delay. When I arrived, mortified about the situation, my host, who was kindly waiting for me at the door, said with a smile: “Don’t worry about it, we are on Latino Time.”

For the first time in my life, I was happy that LT existed. Having been raised by a German mother, more often than not, I live in conflict with the timing of many of my Latino friends and colleagues as I’m usually the first to arrive everywhere.

During the presentation, part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, I spoke about how we can modulate our levels of Latinoness throughout the day and depending on the roles we play.

Going back to the example, in this country, punctuality is key in obtaining others’ respect and trust in you. So you must consider it a basic trait for professional success. But, if you have a party at your house over the weekend you’re probably not going to send out invitations with a beginning and an end time as most Anglos would. We experience time more as an event than as a chronological episode. Which means that the party starts when you arrive and it ends whenever it ends. For Anglos it is more like an 8- 11 PM thing.

The problem begins when this trait spills over your professional space and you are consistently late to turn in your projects or to a conference call. This can have an immediate impact on your personal brand as your colleagues and bosses make assumptions about you being untrustworthy.

It’s good to realize that you are not just Latino (or Mexican, Salvadorean, Dominican, etc.) Your identity is made up of numerous experiences, influences, beliefs, culture, religion, sexual orientation, race, and so on. Paradoxically, modulating the Latino aspects that may negatively affect your career opportunities is something very Latin.

We are a group known for our adaptability therefore, there’s no need to fear losing your Latino identity as a result of making these small adjustments. The ability to manage the different aspects of your identity according to the situation you are in or the role you’re playing at the time, is the best demonstration of your Latinoness in action.

If you liked this blog, you may also like: Uncover your Latinoness

What they don’t teach in college

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

mariela-at-working-mother-conference

I just finished writing a short essay for an Anthology of Latinas in Higher Education. It was an interesting piece to write as it made me focus on my college years and the fact that often times I feel as if I had forgotten lots of what I learned. I relive this feeling every weekend when I participate in a Spanish book club in Manhattan and I realize that my peers freely quote from all sorts of novels and poems and even though I have read most of them, I can’t.

I used to think that I suffered from some kind of memory loss. It was worrying and also a bit embarrassing to be one of a small handful of writers in the group and to keep quiet at critical parts of the discussion.

Writing the essay forced me to think about what I learned in college during those six years while I worked on my Masters in Philosophy and Literature. (In Argentina, you enter college and graduate with a Masters degree.) Yes, I read more novels than I can count, and I took four years of Latin and ancient Greek; yes I took Linguistics, Semiotics, History of Philosophy, and all those interesting courses you’re supposed to take when you work on a Liberal Arts degree. But if you ask me to sit down and explain the basics of Parmenides theory, I’d be hard press to come up with the answer.

And yet I know that it was during those formative years that I learned how to structure my own thinking and writing and to create layers of meaning. It was thanks to the hundreds of books that I read and the hours spent interpreting them that I developed the ability to translate complex thoughts and topics into simple ideas for large audiences. These are things you don’t go to college for, when in reality they are the main reason why you do. They are almost a side effect of doing all the hard work in school. The Vitamin D you get from being in the sun when the only thing you were after was a good sun tan.

The experience of spending those years exploring my interests was not only critical to shaping my thinking and worldview, my inner voice and reasoning skills; but in addition, it was instrumental in building my confidence. Those years shaped me, they gave legitimacy to my talents, and they opened up a world of opportunities only available to those who are able to express their ideas clearly.

Would I sound smarter during our book club discussions if I remembered my literary periods better? Probably. Would that make me more effective in my chosen career? Very unlikely.

So I made my peace with the fact that, even though on the surface it seems as though I should be good at something I’ve gone to college for (such as literary analysis, for instance), different people learn very different lessons from the same teachers.

The fact that I have some strong memory loss when it comes to remembering the characteristics of a particular literary movement doesn’t mean that I’ve wasted my education. It means that I selectively remember skills I learned which were not even in the syllabus and that to me are far more aligned with my goals and passion.

Putting STEM on the Latino map

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

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On April 1st, top thought leaders from the public, private and non profit sectors got together for the Latino Education conference organized by Latino Magazine in Washington DC. The conference featured great speakers and panelists who are experts and practitioners in the space.

The main theme of the conference was furthering the involvement of Latino students in the STEM fields. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) You wonder why is this so important as to warrant a conference on the topic? Well, thirty years ago, the US was number one in graduating high school and college students. We were leading the world in science and math scores. Thirty years later we are near the bottom half of the developing world. Given that 25% of our country’s Kindergarten students are Latinos, and our community has a 50% dropout rate, the situation presents a huge challenge for the United States future.

These are some of the key learnings I’d like to share with you:

  • Eight out of the top ten jobs of the future are STEM field related
  • There are no lack of programs that are helping students succeed in high school and pursue a college education with emphasis in STEM
  • There is no shortage of talent in the Latino community but institutions, organizations and companies need to learn how to identify it better
  • Training teachers to teach STEM subjects is critical to the success of students
  • Taking an AP course and passing an AP exam increases a Latino student’s chances to graduate college from 15% to 65%
  • Passing Algebra by 8th grade is a great predictor of college success
  • It’s critical to scale up programs that work and to work with partners
  • We need to continue informing Latino parents and students of what’s available in terms of resources, opportunities, organizations, etc. so they can take advantage of all these.

    My question to you is the following: Are you doing anything that is related to this field that others need to know about, or are you aware of resources, initiatives, organizations that help students engage in this important field? Let me know!

    I’d like to continue to give visibility to those who are working in this field to help Latino students succeed.

    How to Survive in this Market

    Monday, October 13th, 2008

    I’m sure you’ve been reading, listening and watching lots of experts share tips about what to do in this crisis. I don’t profess to have the magic wand, but I’ll add my two cents for my Latino audience.

    Keep in mind that as a person with a Hispanic background who either grew up in Latin America or was raised by a family who did, you’re likely to have several traits that come very handy in times of crisis. They are the result of having experienced such unstable situations and having to adjust to changing conditions often. Some of these traits are your adaptability to change, your creativity, your ability to solve problems and your relationship-building skills. Here are a few things that you can do to showcase those traits at work:

    • Come up with creative ways to cut expenses, such as sharing resources with companies or organizations in your industry.
    • Conduct a brainstorming session with your teammates to discuss more effective ways to market your products or services.
    • Build team spirit at a time when your company may have experienced job cuts and those of you who are left have a lot more work to do.
    • Try to partner with non profit organizations or other companies to reach the same audience.
    • Offer to assume a different role if you see that your job is not the most critical right now.

    Remember, you have lots of built-in advantages. This is a great opportunity for you to show that you have what it takes to be a leader.