Shine Latina sat with two professionally accomplished Latin women to uncover the secrets behind A Latina's map to climbing the corporate ladderovercoming the gender and cultural barriers of corporate success.
When Puerto-Rican native Ingrid Schmidt began working as the administrative assistant of a mortgage bank's president in San Juan, little did she know that one day she would become Sr. Vice President of an even larger bank conglomerate.
She understood from the start that even at the lower levels of the corporate ladder, it's important to envision the professional career ahead. "You must look beyond at opportunities beyond [your present situation]. You have to have the vision," says Schmidt, who decided to be indispensable to her boss. "I became knowledgeable of all the numbers she needed to follow. I was aware of the mortgage industry's [monthly] ups and downs, and kept the president abreast of the latest data," recalls Schmidt of her first bank job, where she saw an opportunity beyond her pay grade, and worked hard to learn as much of the business as she could.
However, many professional women including educated Latinas trying to move up the ranks in the business world are entering new corporate areas and finding themselves lacking the appropriate navigational map. "They usually have no one to pattern themselves after. There's no previous knowledge, experience or tools to help them navigate a corporate environment, and there's a lack of role models or mentors to take them under their wings," says clinical psychologist and personal development expert Angélica Pérez-Litwin of one of the many hurdles facing Hispanic women in the marketplace.
Taking a hammer to professional barriers
Pérez-Litwin and Schmidt find that there are a number of issues facing Latinas that keep them from advancing in their careers. According to the experts, though, these can be shattered once they're brought to the forefront. Here's their advice to resolve some of the most common barriers.
Latinas avoid self-advocating resulting in missed work promotions
Pérez-Litwin: Take risks, and step outside the box. Talk to key people in the company. Be proactive in finding all the information you possibly can on how to get to the next level in your career. Find a mentor, and meet regularly with him/her. Invest in your career; take relevant courses, work trainings and workshops that enhance your resume. According to Pérez-Litwin, a consistent attitude of "Look at me! I did this!" produces success in the corporate world.
Latinas are pigeonholed into positions that are not part of the company's leadership track.
Pérez-Litwin: When you're considering a job offer, make sure to find out what type of career advancement track is attached to it. Find ways of becoming part of leadership boards by volunteering in non-profit organizations or small companies that need help growing. This type of experience may help you make a lateral move towards a job with advancement potential.
Schmidt: Lead by example. You will garner respect by being willing to do what you ask of others. Always go the extra mile, and support your team.
Latinas tend to feel culturally isolated in the corporate world.
Pérez-Litwin: Network outside the company with professional Latinas who are doing the job you'd like to do some day. According to Pérez-Litwin, networking allows you to "expand in the company and excel in the field."
Schmidt: Be open to change. What made you successful five years ago may not translate into success now. Be willing to take risks, and reinvent your career.
Angélica Pérez-Litwin, PhD is the Publisher and CEO of NEW LATINA.
Ingrid Schmidt is Retail Banking Director and Senior Vice President of Banco Santander Puerto Rico.