It is evident that Ivanka Trump’s advocacy and commitment to women’s issues is making a bold impact in the world’s stage.
From finding common ground that unified President Trump with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch the United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs to hosting numerous private events on the matter, she is becoming a bold advocate to all things women.
Her desire to understand the issues that matter most has taken an important turn as she met with a group of Latina business owners at a private event in D.C. on March 16. Dina Powell, the former Goldman Sachs partner who serves as a senior counselor for economic initiatives and was recently named deputy national security adviser for strategy, was also at the meeting. This event marks the first time Ivanka exclusively meets with Latina entrepreneurs.
Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), Nina Vaca Chair Emeritus of the USHCC and members of At the Table, an initiative led by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Foundation supporting women in business and leadership, facilitated the meeting. Jennifer Korn who serves as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for the Office of Public Liaison, and is one of the highest ranking Latinas in the Trump administration, was also at the table.
Coming from across the nation, the room gathered an impressive group of Latina business owners representing industries ranging from healthcare to professional services, technology among others.
I was one of the business owners invited, and was particularly impressed by Ivanka’s genuine concern and engagement as she learned about our journey and unique challenges as immigrants, business owners and moms in the workplace. Important resources currently available to Latino business owners, like the Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program, were shared in the discussion, among others. Ivanka and her team want to ensure the voice and concerns of all women are heard and addressed, especially around access to capital, networks and opportunities. She challenged us to provide her with ideas to bring forward in her efforts advocating for women within her father’s administration.
While we can agree that collectively as women we face similar challenges around equal pay, access to capital and the juggling of work and family, there are facts that make Latina issues particularly concerning to the broader American economy.
The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN reports that Latinas lead the way in growth in number of firms generating $97 billion in revenues. Between 2007 and 2016 the number of Latina owned firms increased by 137% versus 45% for overall women-owned firms. This impressive growth trend also aligns with the demographic shifts and growth Hispanics represent, who contribute to over 50 percent of the U.S. population growth according to the U.S. Census. Overall minorities are driving 100 percent of the U.S. population growth.
However, while Latinas report rising numbers in educational attainment and entrepreneurship they are more disproportionately affected by inequalities in career and business. Latinas earn 54 cents to the dollar earned by white non-Hispanic males, totaling over $1,000,000 in lost earnings by one Hispanic female over the course of a 40-year career, as reported by the HARVARD Kennedy School. This is an important issue the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement have been advocating for.
When it comes to business, overall women-owned businesses report average revenues of $143,431 while Latinas report $52,087; that is 36 cents to the dollar versus their female counterparts. If Latina owned businesses were to reach parity in revenues with their female counterparts this will bring into the economy an additional 172 billion in revenues. Today’s $97 billion would become $269 billion.
While many may look at these numbers as minority issues, they actually play an important role in the overall economy. Small business owners create over 60 percent of net new jobs, and if the owners driving most of the growth- Latinas - are not reaching their full potential, our economy is not reaching its full potential either. It is an American priority that benefits all if we all focus on moving up together to our full potential.
After the event, President Trump retweeted a post by the USHCC acknowledging the gathering which later unraveled a storm of both positive and negative comments, some even attacking the intent and integrity of the event and attendees.
As one of the guests invited to be at the table with Ivanka, I personally respect everyone’s sentiment around the meeting, especially given the tone and divisiveness the election generated; however, when given the opportunity to make an impact, we must be present, constructive and engaged.
This meeting marks the beginning of an open dialogue to ensure the community’s unique needs are heard and most important addressed in a meaningful way. The real work begins now and I will certainly remain committed to the community I proudly represent as an immigrant, Latina and business owner living the American dream; while never forgetting where I come from.
Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, cross-cultural and diversity business strategist, independent television contributor and CEO and co-founder of CIEN+ and CulturIntel, a big data intelligence firm. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women's Leadership Board and the Women’s Forum of New York.