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Latina leaders: Why Millennials are the key

Tuesday, July 02, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Marie Quintana

As Network of Executive Women supporters, we have all carried the banner for workplace diversity — and been disappointed to see the number of women officers and board members stagnate. For Latina women, the results have been even more disappointing.

Recently I faced this harsh reality when a retailer asked me to moderate a panel of Latina executives in the consumer goods and retail industry. We were quickly confronted by the scarcity of Latina executives to invite. The scarcity of Latina women executives in the industry surprised the retailer, herself a Latina.

We eventually found four amazing Latina women to sit on the panel, and the event received a great deal of positive feedback. The audience, a cross-industry group of men and women, was eager to learn from these Latina leaders.For the women on the panel, it was an opportunity to support a younger group of employees, many of them Millennials, and to spotlight Latina leadership.

The Network’s 2008 best practices report, "Latinas: Opening Doors to New Opportunities,” said Latinas were a critical component of the consumer products and retail industry’s future. The report said, "Latinas represent 3.3 percent of all people employed in management, professional and related occupations, but hold only 0.3 percent of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies.”

Sadly, we have barely moved the needle for Latinas since that report. The question remains: What will it take to see a significant change in the number of Latina leaders in our industry?

I believe it will take a generational change, and we must focus on the next generation of female leaders: The Millennials, now 18 to 29 years old, many of them new college graduates.

According to Pew Research Center, Millennials "are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history. Among those ages 18 to 29, 18.5 percent are Hispanic, 14.2 percent are black, 4.3 percent are Asian, 3.2 percent are mixed race or other, and 59.8 percent, a record low, are white.”

It’s up to today’s women leaders to develop, mentor and sponsor these diverse and talented young women.

In her book Rising Stars, Elisabeth Kelan notes that Millennial women are confronted by a lack of senior women role models, who are "essential for leadership development because they show the aspiring leaders their potential selves.”

This is the first generation of women, Kelan writes, whose self-confidence is equal to that of their male peers — but that can have its downside. "If you always take your success and failure on yourself, you are unable to see the structural barriers that persist.”

Millennial women need to not only see female role models but engage in meaningful conversations — and relationships — with them. Today’s female leaders, especially those from groups traditionally underrepresented in leadership, have a special opportunity to guide these young women.

Millennials are our legacy. It’s our responsibility to pay it forward and develop Millennial women, especially Latinas. They are, after all, the future.

Marie Quintana is president of the Quintana Group, a consulting firm working with leading companies and brands to define, refine and implement business strategies to maximize sales results. Previously, Quintana spent 14 years with PepsiCo Inc., most recently serving as the senior vice president of PepsiCo multicultural sales and marketing. A past NEW Board member, she was named one of the "Top Women in Grocery” by Progressive Grocer and is featured in the book The New Woman Rules.

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