There is no better way to get inspiration than to hear from successful Latinas themselves. This summer, I attended a Hispanic Professionals Networking Group event featuring a meet up and Q/A with Ruth Gaviria (first to the right in the photo above), the Vice President of Hispanic Ventures for Meredith Corporation. Before the Colombian marketing guru launched “Siempre Mujer” a Latina lifestyle magazine targeting Hispanic women in the U.S. in 2005, she worked as the Director of Marketing and Brand Development for the publication “People en Español.” Fast forward five years, and now Gaviria is in charge of Meredith’s Hispanic magazine portfolio including “Ser Padres,” “Ser Padres Espera” and “Ser Padres Bebé,” which she re-launched and redesigned in 2008.
During the HPNG event, she revealed her experience as a Latina leader in corporate America and shared her secret to success:
I want to share one experience that changed my life. It’s not even job specific. I was identified by management that I was leadership potential and I was sent to the Center of Creative Leadership. I was honored. I was sent there and I was the only Latina woman, and I was the youngest. When you go to these programs they break you down to your core and they build you back up. The goal is to make you a better manager and it’s a formula that works. During that process, a counselor sat next to me and said, “As a woman of color you have to tone it down. You aren’t going to succeed if you act like a part of these people.”
She continued on to explain that she received this feedback because people weren’t used to seeing women of color or Latinas take control in a corporate environment. Gaviria then gave a list of lessons related to her experience at the Creative Center for Leadership: First, adapt to your environment. Second, know when you can be yourself in a professional environment. Lastly, find a company that aligns with your passion.
Thankfully her tips for success didn’t end there,
“Your first advocate has to be yourself. You have to believe in yourself and the biggest part of leadership is listening. When you are saying, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m Latina and I have done this, this, and this.” You are showing me that you are not open to other opinions. What I have learned is that the process of listening and aligning your goals with your client or company is what is going to help you win. The second thing is that you can’t do it all alone. What fuels me is to create that group of powerful Latinos and have us join together. We [as Latinos] aren’t very cohesive. When you look at the American community, you definitely feel a sisterhood or brotherhood. With events like this, I would have to say that things are changing.”
Gaviria’s strong passion and powerful diction made me feel like a part of that change. I secretly walked away pretending that she was my mentor. I recorded the entire lecture, and whenever I feel like I need that motivating push, I listen to her speech all over again. I hope you leave here a little inspired as well.
Share your secrets to success or your view on women of color and leadership below.