12/11/2012 12:11 pm ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

Hilda Solis: Latinas Need A Good Support System For Success

The recipe for success isn’t so much about emulating a dog-eat-dog mentality, but rather it’s building a base of networks or what Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis called “hermandad.”

Solis explained to a crowded room of Latina leaders at a luncheon Monday during the National Hispana Leadership Institute annual conference in Washington D.C., that growing up she sought “hermandad” or a support system.

“There’s this synergy that exists among Latinas that we support each other,” said Solis. “Whatever we do, we have to remember, we have the responsibility to continue to make sure that others come behind us and they’re around us because let me tell you it is lonely, even where I am at.”

Hilda Solis: “One of the biggest obstacles Latinas face to being successful is they need more Latina role models”

She later told VOXXI that she considers one of the biggest obstacles Latinas face to being successful is they need more Latina role models. In her own life, she didn’t have that support system. For this reason, the Secretary indicated that networks such as NHLI are especially vital in present times.

“You don’t all have to come from a certain criteria or background. You can learn all these things become a leader in your own right,” she told VOXXI.

The message Hilda Solis echoed is one practiced by NHLI for years. The organization was established in 1987 to address the underrepresentation of Latinas in the corporate, nonprofit and political arenas. An estimated 500 women who have graduated from the program’s leadership training have also mentored around 5,000 other Latinas.

Although the speech comes at a time where Latinas are making inroads through various levels of society, some would say the mainstream has yet to embrace this growing force or “an untapped business asset.”

Loida Rosario, a business and marketing strategist and president of Into the Core Consulting, LLC., wrote a guest blog for Forbes indicating that not one Latina was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article titled “More women are Primed to Land CEO Roles.”

Yet, NHLI counters there isn’t a lack of successful Latinas who are breaking barriers. One case in point is Catherine Pino, co-founder and principal of D&P Creative Strategies, who was awarded the NHLI Alumna of the Year. Pino has worked closely with Fortune 100 companies and private foundations to advance social service initiatives. Like Solis, she pioneered her way up the ladder.

Pino was the first Latina co-chair and board member of the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City. She served as a board member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and is currently serving as a board member of the National Council La Raza and the National Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

NHLI board chairwoman Marieli Colon-Padilla explained that more Latinas are gaining venues particularly in terms of their purchasing power and NHLI’s mission is to help these women grow in numbers. Colon-Padilla told VOXXI the misconception is that Latinas and women in general should emulate men in how they achieved success. Yet, NHLI believes the contrary.

“I encourage Latinas – because it is a big challenge—is to not lose themselves along the way. Sometimes, once we break the glass ceiling we try to emulate the male behavior and there is something to be said about that not only emotional intelligence, but the gender intelligence.”

She added, “The biggest obstacle is our own fears.”

That’s a message the Secretary of Labor made front and center in her own speech. The Secretary went on to note that it’s still not an easy position. Often she heard “naysayers” tell her she wasn’t going to be able to accomplish some of her goals.

“You get up you dust yourself off and you start walking again,” she told the audience.

Hilda Solis is the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet

Hilda Solis was raised in La Puente, California by both parents who left their native countries in Nicaragua and Mexico. Solis also became the first woman to serve in the state senate and later defeated a long-time Democratic incumbent to gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and now is the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.

Solis indicated that Latinas are not well understood in today’s society and part of the challenge is changing such perceptions.

“We want to have our imprint felt,” she said. “I think we want to have a lasting impact there. What we need to know is that we don’t have to hold back. There are many people that want to see our contributions made.”

“You all here are going to break the glass ceiling a thousand times – you’re going to break it inch by inch.”

Originally published by Voxxi as Hilda Solis calls on Latinas to break the glass ceiling



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