#MeToo For Latinas #YoTambien

me too yo tambien.jpg

We are experiencing a watershed moment in the US.  What is that? I’ve witnessed a few: Watergate.  The personal PC on your desk. The first internet.  The #MeToo moment that started two weeks ago when actor Alyssa Milano asked women to call out their own experience with sexual assault is still trending on social media.  Now the fate of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has many men lying awake at night wondering when their past bad behavior will cost them their job, their current relationship, their family and for some, their freedom.  Finally.  Maybe once and for all the silence around sexual assault and harassment will end.  There is so much at stake for all women but this watershed moment may impact Latinas in a different way. 

First, let’s be clear that we have historically been cast as the most sexualized character in media or the ones with the least power and subservient.  The sex worker. The maid.  The girlfriend that tolerates abuse. The peasant.  The first time I saw a young Latina character on mainstream US television in such a remarkably authentic role was America Ferrera cast as the lead character in Ugly Betty.  That was 2006! Oh, by the way, that show was based on a telenovela in Latin America and produced for ABC by Salma Hayek!  Rarely are we cast as physicians, lawyers, scientists, therapists, teachers, or political figures.  The sexualized, coquette woman in film—the bad one—is both lovely and exotic and that somehow has translated into brown and curvy.  You might as well put a sign on our foreheads: You can do anything you want and get away with it.

Second, there is no question that many Latinas take absolute unquestioned joy in fashion, beauty, and music of every genre.  We celebrate our lives in every artistic form and Latinas love crafting their very own style.   And we (rightfully!) have no fear featuring our curves, our hair, or that must-have red lipstick.  This flair for the artistic fashionista—even flamboyant--trendsetting will not end.  Nor should it.

Our unwavering flair for style coupled with the cursed stereotype of the passive, ever-suffering Latina must not allow the #metoo moment to pass us by.  Our bodies and what we do with them or our fashion sense is ours alone.  Men who look at all this as somehow permission to view Latinas as the one group that can still be subjected to sexual harassment or assault cannot be sheltered.   Just because Latinas (or any woman) lives her beauty out loud on her own terms is not an invitation to make sexual comments or worse.  We are not “asking for it”.  For the umpteenth time: Sexual harassment, assault and abuse are all signs of a warped sense of power over another human being.  It is not about attraction.

Latinas remain over represented on the front lines of every industry’s workforce rather than in management.  This makes it much hard to access leaders who can intervene and defend their positions.  Many do not trust HR for even hiring male predators in the first place. Fear of job loss, demotion, or continued abuse is a reality for any group that lives on the margins of the social gradient of power in the US today.  But #MeToo is not just for Hollywood actresses, congresswomen, or lawyers.  It’s for us.  #YoTambien     

Do You Want to Be the Alpha Latina in the Room (Really)?

(Image by @cellophane_girl)

(Image by @cellophane_girl)

Have you ever described yourself as THE Alpha female in the room?  Some of you are more direct: BadassChingona.  You are proud to dominate the room, the conversation or any situation in your quest to be successful entrepreneurs, community leaders, and executives.  Or maybe you bring out these warrior instincts at home with family—driven to let your family know who’s the boss.   In 2003, Europes largest daily newspaper, The Guardian, published one of the first articles asking the question: Do Alpha females exist?  It cautioned that being an Alpha male or female was not exactly a positive way to describe either men or women!   Since then, stories about the emerging traits of the Alpha female abound. 

My question: In our current quest to create opportunity for all--to build an inclusive society--a strong united sisterhood to advance women of color does it make sense to adopt the qualities of an Alpha male or could this undermine our true power?

The Alpha male is typically characterized by hierarchy—striving to be the one with the most power to control others at any cost.  Power is a zero sum game.  There is only so much and the more you have it the better.  Power is good for one purpose and one purpose only:  Be in charge.  The Alpha male came to be epitomized in popular films with “successful” men though reckless, selfish and narcissistic—think Gordon Gecco in Wall Street. Robert DeNiro in Goodfellas.  It’s their way or the highway. 

Is this the leadership style for women to follow?   Isn’t it possible we can do so much better and model the way?

As Latinas continue to advance in so many sectors, there is no question that a common trait shared across the spectrum of success is fierce determination and assertiveness.  It takes real focus and positioning yourself to navigate up the corporate ladder, get elected to public office or to run your business—and have a personal life.  The word “no” means nothing to us.  And it is so easy to lash out when we’ve been slighted or made less than in our work life.  But Latinas bring something more to the quest for leadership.  We can still bring the best of our cultural values for community, integrity, respect for others and advance without resorting to what’s been done to us.  And, this may be a small manifesto to call each of us to stay true to those ideals—because those values turn out to be actually good for the soul, good for business, and fundamental to the kind of society we may all want to create.

One of the most prolific writers on the value of developing strong supportive social networks is Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Success.  In one of his epic posts on LinkedIn (a must read!) he described how important it is not to cave to the belief that leaders who build big businesses or disrupt industries must also be assholes! And his book offers so many examples of “Takers”, “Matchers” and “Givers”.  Turns out the truly successful business leaders thrive on giving back, helping others, staying accessible to those who actually can’t do much to advance us, and offering authentic support is key to success.  Look at those attributes! Don’t they align with some of our most cherished Latino values?

As much as I want Latinas to Rise to the Top---let’s not do it at the expense of our deeper values that shape our Latinidad. Tell me about the values that shape your career and how you bring our culture to the work you do. Andale Mujer!  -Maria  

I’ve Been Stabbed in the Back

"To Be Stabbed in the Back" by LadyKenora Used with Permission

"To Be Stabbed in the Back" by LadyKenora Used with Permission

Those are the words that came to my mind five years ago when a person I thought to be a colleague went forward and published an article about our work on a health initiative---making it appear that the project was solely his.  Yes, the national publication was vital to my career.  No, I didn’t see it coming.   Yes, he was a white male (and quite privileged).  I didn’t find out until I saw the journal publish the article and at that point to go back and ask for a retraction would be a spectacle.  The editor was appalled, nonetheless.

As I often mentor others, when you face a set back its key to put it into perspective and ask:  Is this five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, five months or five years of recovery.  THIS was five years.  The project was starting and it would be a while before another paper could be written about the results of that initiative.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.  The next hit was that I was taken off the project by this same man after I complained and stated that I expected to be included in the write up of the results of the project.   My options as a consultant were totally different than as an employee. I moved on.

Five years later, I cannot begin to say how much my work ended up turning in a much better direction.  I started another similar project in a different county and garnered better results with better support. I presented a better paper to the National Council on Foundations.  And the original publication where I thought the original article would be published is ready to share the results of this work when done.  I also began driving a different agenda for my work that now supports the activity of a consulting team of several professionals.  All that helped to position me for a Board of Trustee role for one the nation’s largest public safety net hospitals—a role I deeply cherish for what I can do to advance health equity.

When a setback occurs in your career—and they will—it requires assessing what kind of challenge it truly poses for your life—not all set backs are equal.  Our emotions alone are not enough of a measure of the problem because our anger, fear, hurt or frustration can reflect our own ego surrounding a situation.   And sometimes we can stay stuck in the emotions instead of forming our best response that gets us what we most want for our career: respect, opportunity and advancement. 

Que se puede hacer? What to do? 

Go nurture yourself and acknowledge the pain—but stay ready to move forward.  Take a hard look at your role in the situation and write down the lessons learned. Make a list of options.  Identify what resources you have or who your allies may be.  Ask your trusted advisers for feedback on the ideas you generate.  Look at the end goal you have for your career and weigh these against the organizational politics involved, the interpersonal dynamics, and the short and long-term consequences you may face with each action.  As much as possible don’t burn bridges on the way out of a situation that one day you may have to cross on the way back.

Probably the most helpful thinking to adopt is to get away from “either/or” thinking to “what if I do X and I do Y”.  It helped enormously that I maintained my sense of professionalism and that my network of other colleagues supported my next set of activities.  No one succeeds alone and it does take your own personal grit and tenacity to find the path forward.   Tell me how you overcame a challenge and let’s share lessons learned among our LatinaVIDA community.      

You Can't Get Ahead Without This ONE Skill

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If you scan the past blog posts on Latina Cubicle Confidential you'll know that there is a lot I've written about creating a career map, developing your executive presence, work life blend strategies (not balance), resilience and managing your boss.  These are, among others, fundamental to your success, Mujeres.  Underneath all that however is a skill that cuts across many dimensions of your work life and how you leverage the career tactics covered here.   

What is that one skill? ---its your critical thinking strategies.  

What is this?  It's how you go about making decisions.  It's how you size up the opportunities or the challenges ahead of you.  And, it's about how you determine facts from opinions or yes, total fiction.  

Companies spend a lot money working through their business strategies using consulting firms that provide many models of how to position a product or service for market growth.  They also spend a lot of money on how to analyze their internal business processes for optimum efficiency.  For your career, critical thinking skills influence the strategy you will use to be competitive and successful as CEO of YOU, Inc.  Here just one example.  When you are presented with the opportunity to take a special project on the job--without a promotion or more pay---its pretty normal to ask yourself, why would I take on that kind of an assignment if it means more work for no increase in pay?  Mira no mas.  This kind of situation for many of us can trigger a sense of being taken advantage of by our employer.  It is a normal reaction in our community.  Many Latinos experience bias and so we are constantly on guard about being exploited.   

But critical thinking skills would require that you look at this situation through a different lens.   Is this assignment an opportunity or a liability?  Maybe my boss is looking to help me grow into a leadership role.  Maybe this assignment will help me learn a skill that I can add to my LinkedIn profile and position me for more success. Maybe this project can lead to something better for my career.

So what's your approach?  First, get the facts.  Do other people at your work place get positioned for success through these assignments?  Ask people you admire if they were asked to do this kind of work, too. Ask your boss, how do you see this as part of my career development?  What would you like this to do for my role here?  Take your emotions out of this and get beyond the assumptions you are drawing from the situation with as much data as possible from as many angles as you can.   

Next, make sure you look at the consequence of doing the project and the consequence of not doing the project.  This is all about assessing opportunity costs to you personally and professionally. What is an "opportunity cost"?  It's the cost of actually doing this work--materials, time and otherwise--and the cost of NOT being able to take on any other opportunities while your time is devoted to the project.  Its also the cost to your professional life if you are seen by your boss as unwilling to take a risk or take on the effort as part of the normal expectations placed on you or your team. 

There is only so much time each day to get through your work and life responsibilities. Assessing opportunity costs is a critical step in your decision making about any new venture. Taking on the project is going to require a commitment to do and to be completely professional--living up to your commitments--you cannot say yes to the project and then blow it off. Eso no se hace!  And, during the project you may not be able to participate in another efforts--volunteering for a nonprofit, start a home project, or start a class.  While all of those are important the question is can those be started at any time?  Will they still be there after the project is done? Is there something I will actually lose? Is there more to be gained by doing this? 

Critical thinking skills ultimately help you make the most out of the opportunities that come your way. Here is a list of the skills involved and the here is a website by a physician turned blogger who devotes a lot of pages to different decision making strategies and the influences that can make for bad decisions in life.  Let me know how you are living your VIDA con ganas!!! Andale! Maria

The Latina Manifesto

We Latinas are reclaiming our identity, transforming our lives, and defining who we are in a world that misunderstands and misrepresents the depths of our strength and the range of our character.

Listen.                                                                                                                         Watch.                                                                                                                       Respect.

Latinas are light brown, dark brown, black and yes, white—every color of life.          

Latinas have brown, blue and hazel eyes—windows to beautiful souls that see the world clearly.                                                                                                    

Latinas have straight, curly and wavy hair—strands of every hue. We speak English, Spanish, Spanglish and Catalan with accents that speak the rhythm of life.                

Hear us.                                                                                                                      

We have taken care of your children while raising our own. And, we are teachers, pediatricians, nurses, and surgeons. 

Cherish us.                                                                                                                  

We have cleaned your houses while taking care of our own homes.  And, we are architects, engineers, carpenters, and real estate developers.                

See us.                                                                                                                        

We have prepared your meals as we serve our own families.And, we are chefs, restaurant owners, and farmers.                                                    

Embrace us.  

We have made your clothes or your shoes as we dress our children.  And, we are fashionistas, designers, tailors, and beauticians.  

Notice us.                                                                                                                    

We have taken care of your elders while we grieve for our families far away. And, we are your police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and members of the national guard.                                                                                                                

Honor us.                                                                                                                  

We have worked behind the scenes while our own stories went untold.  And, we are reporters, journalists, broadcasters, actors and directors.                        

Watch us.

The words we claim to describe us are brave, persistent, dedicated, bold and beautiful.   The documents we can show you are diplomas, degrees, patents, and trademarks.    

No border will contain us or define us.                                                                         No one can hold us back.      

Our numbers throughout the world cannot be ignored.   We are learning, we are organizing, and we are raising our voices.  

Our futures will shape the world.                                                                                 Listen.                                                                                                                       Watch.                                                                                                                       Respect.

How Will You Define 2017?

Happy 2017!  There is something magical about putting up a new calendar at your desk, in the kitchen or starting a new journal.  By now some of you have set some goals for the year ahead.  Social media is all a buzz about making and keeping resolutions: Reading the best selling self-help book, joining a master mind group, creating healthy habits or just adopting the routines followed by other successful people.  It can be overwhelming to see the flurry of Facebook posts, Tweets,  Instagram quotes and news stories on what to do to make 2017 your best year ever. 

In the past I've written about why making New Year's Resolutions can be counter productive. Instead, my contribution is to offer two themes to define 2017:  Compassion and Intention.

Changing habits is hard work for all of us!  Don't beat yourself about the resolutions you have to change.  No one makes goals and keeps them 100% of the time.  Life brings us unexpected challenges or new opportunities and our priorities must adapt.  Things we thought would work to help us stay motivated, stop working. It would be as big of a mistake to keep doing something with ample evidence your strategy is not working as it is to not try something--just about anything-- to achieve your goals.  Sometimes we need a break, a fresh start.   I stopped writing columns on a regular basis for over a year during the challenge of seeing my father lose a battle with cancer and then watching as my mother wage her own just six months later.  My work load increased unexpectedly with a more demanding set of projects.  Some habits make it easier to cope with the hardships and challenges.  Others need to be suspended until there is room to breath, get our focus again.  The one habit I maintained in the midst of these last two remarkable years is leveraging my own personal board of advisors---checking in with the people who inspire me and provide me with honest feedback on whether I'm making progress or getting stagnant. Those conversations, emails, or phone calls allow me to look back and say 2016 went well.  

Compassion is also a vital part of sustaining effective relationships with others--especially those who test our patience or push our buttons. Amid the challenges that divide a family, a work team, a community or a nation, true compassion opens the door for understanding and respect for differences.  It's the foundation that let's us work together, solve problems, and remain allies to empower each other. 

"What is Your Intention Today?" This is a sticker I made that sits at the bottom of my computer screen.  It stops me from having a day of just mind numbing emails, phone calls, and meetings that get me nowhere closer to my goals or deadlines. 

As you look forward this year, take a 360 inventory of your own current journey in life---health, spirit, work, family, finances, and community--and create a vision of where you see yourself next New Years' eve.  Set some intentions around the changes or new habits that move you forward to your own vision of success.  Poco a poco se anda lejos.  Anticipate that you will need to make course corrections so that you are not surprised or disappointed.  Borrow from those around you who share their success habits but recognize what works for one person can be a disaster for others.  At the end of the week, ask what worked, what helped? You will be amazed how far you can go when you  live your LatinaVIDA with intention! --Maria Hernandez, PhD.   P.S.  If you are looking for resources and suggestions for defining your 2017, please visit the LatinaVIDA Evernote Notebook for ideas, tools, and inspiration.