3 Issues for Hispanic Businesswomen

A view of Hispanic businesswomen on education, equal pay and safe, affordable childcare, issues that support a better society


Recently, the New York Times ran a story that caused me to reflect on the achievements of the Women’s Movement and specifically on how some of the work yet to be done impacts Hispanic businesswomen and their families.   This is What 80 Looks Like, by Gail Collins, commemorated Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday, her achievements and her empathy for women globally.

Given the uproar, both positive and negative, caused by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which I had just read, I asked myself the question, where do things truly stand now?  And more importantly for this audience, where do Hispanic businesswomen stand in the whole picture?  Houston’s Latina Voices hosts Minerva Perez and Sofia Adrogue asked Gloria Steinem that question and she answered, “Where do (you) want to stand? It’s not up to me to say.”

Perez and Adrogue also interviewed two Houston women, Harla Kaplan and Gloria Guardiola, who were present at the famous and pivotal 1977 Women’s Convention sponsored by the National Conference on Women.  They commented that for the first time a Hispanic caucus integrated with a statewide caucus of over 15000 women who came together to discuss issues like equal pay for equal work.  These women said that while progress has been made in the last 37 years there are still three issues that need our focus and attention and they are all related:  Science Education for Women, Equal Pay and Equitable Child Care.

Science Education for Women (Women in STEM)

The National Science Foundation and the US Department of Education have long promoted Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education as a contributor to better paying professional careers and to a more innovative workforce.  The movement was revitalized to include an emphasis on women in the past 10-15 years.

On September 26, 2011, in a speech to the NSF at the White House, Michelle Obama said: “f we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

The fact is that women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller overall wage gap relative to men.  It is also a fact that women represent only one third of all of the US workers in STEM professions.  Economically speaking, we need to encourage young women in middle school and high school to pursue their interests in STEM subjects and to feel confident in “leaning in” within these fields shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, especially in the Hispanic community.

In Latina Leaders, An Untapped Business Asset, by Loida Rosario on www.forbes.com the author mentioned three Latina women as having future potential for CEO roles in Fortune 1000 companies. Given their capabilities these Hispanic businesswomen were highly qualified to be in the running.

Ms. Rosario, who was surprised that these women were left out of recent lists created by the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine, mentioned Marie D. Quintero-Johnson, VP of Mergers and Acquisition of the Coca Cola Company; Maria Martinez, Executive VP-Customers for Life and Chief Growth Officer at Salesforce.com; and Maria Sastre, Chief Operating Officer for Signature Flight Support at BBA Aviation.  All three women are in STEM-related careers.

There is a STEM organization that is doing great work for this cause in the Hispanic community.

Hispanic Businesswomen and Equal Pay for Equal Work

Harla Kaplan and Gloria Guardiola say that we cannot take the focus off of the equal pay amendment for the sake of our economy as well as for the welfare of women and children.  A report called Professional Women: A Gendered Look at Obstacles and Opportunities; Fact Sheet 2014, issued by the Department of Professional Employees of the AFL/CIO, states that Latina women earn  62% of what their male counterparts make vs. the average 77% of all women.

At the same time, professional women make up 57.1% of the professional workforce while they are earning 24% less than male professional workers.

This information becomes even more compelling when you consider that one third of all working mothers are the primary breadwinner in the family and this includes families where both partners are working as well as single parent families. Lastly, the report concludes that if the wage gap were eliminated there would be significant reductions in poverty that range from 50% for single mothers to 62% for married women to a full 84% for all single women.


Andrea Cotter
Andrea Cotter
Andrea Cotter is the Founder and President of Virgilio & Cotter, LLC where she focuses on Marketing and Communications Strategies specializing in the Health Care industries. She also teaches C-Suite Leadership in her role as an adjunct faculty member at NYU's School of Professional Studies. In addition to her own company, Andrea has had both a corporate and entrepreneurial career in marketing and communications as a Global Executive at IBM Corporation and as SVP and Chief Communications Officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), followed by a brand consultancy role at Straightline and a partnership in the workplace culture startup CultureTalk. She speaks several languages, including Spanish, Italian and French has done consulting work with clients in Europe, US and Asia.

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