A Lesson From Mi Mama: Paving Our Own Paths as Latinas
“Tienes que ser una lider.”
My mom always used to say “You have to be a leader.” She would say this what seemed like every time I ever left the house growing up. To this day, I hear these words in my head over and over again but now I finally understand why my mom chose to instill leadership at such an early age.
My mom moved to the states from Morelia, Mexico after marrying my American dad in 1990. Prior to moving to NYC, she worked as a high-level accountant for the Mexican government and was incredibly dedicated to her career. Once she arrived in the states and started looking for work she felt stuck. As a woman of color who spoke English as a second language and as a mom, she felt her options were very limited as she tried to continue the career she had in Mexico. And even after she found work, job after job, she has faced years of racism and sexism and left a company after finding out her male colleague was making twice her hourly rate on his first day.
For the last ten years I have worked across the music industry and with startups – both largely white male-dominated sectors. I’ve helped artists launch their careers and helped startups develop. In all three cases, the representation, pay, and funding have been anything but equal.
- At the Latin Grammys, women made up just under 12% of the award winners compared to men earning 82%.
- When it comes to funding for businesses, between Black women and Latinas combined, they make up less than 1% of all venture capital investment.
- And when it comes to wages, Latinas still make 57 cents to every dollar a white male makes.
I’m here to tell you that my mami was 100% correct. If we want these numbers to change, we have to be leaders – and that means we have to be the ones to lead the way to change. I now realize that my mom had been preparing me to challenge these statistics and pave my own path from the moment I was born.
I’m not the only one. Many of us have found a way to build our own spaces where we have seats at the table; Latina-owned small businesses are now the fastest-growing segment of the business community in the US. There are so many incredible Latina entrepreneurs leading the way and providing resources on growing in our careers, funding our businesses, and creating generational wealth – Beatriz Acevedo, co-founder of We Are Suma, Lyanne Alfaro with Nasdaq/Moneda Moves, Jully-Alma Tavaras with Investing Latina and Carolyn Rodz, founder of Hello Alice – just to name a few.
And while we still have ways to go on the path to equal representation, funding and pay, I am so proud of us – the businesses we’re starting, the movements we’re creating – it’s inspiring.
So here’s to creating more opportunities for us to be seen, heard, valued – and of course, to getting paid.
About the Author: Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda is a business development + communications strategist for startups (The Mujerista + more), business coach, and author of an upcoming business-launching book for the next generation of Latinas, Jefa in Training (pre-orders launching soon). Follow her on IG @ashleykstoyanovojeda.