Posts Tagged ‘women in the workplace’

Are Latina TV reporters too sexy for the job?

Saturday, 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.

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

Thursday, 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?

Sunday, 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?

Wednesday, 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.

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.