7th Annual National LATINA Symposium, 2010
In its seventh consecutive year, the National LATINA Symposium gathered talented and successful Latinas from across the nation on September 9th at the Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. A celebration of Latina empowerment, the event addressed the concerns of the Latino community in one forum. In addition to recognizing key Latina leaders for their leadership, accomplishments, and commitment in building a strong community, Latinas shared their stories of success throughout the different workshops of the day.
“We must recognize that we live in tense times, and we have and are rising to the challenge,” said Robert Bard, president and CEO of LATINA Style in his opening remarks. “We are making a difference, and everyone is here for a reason.” Afterwards, attendees welcomed the Honorable Juan M. Garcia, III, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Navy, to the ceremonial leadership breakfast. He emphasized the need of the Latina working force in every field during this recovery period and the importance of earning a place at the American table. “America cannot afford to overlook any talent, and we are not,” he said.
Featured speaker Brigadier General Linda Urrutia-Varhall, U.S. Air Force, underlined the importance of mentorship and various opportunities as key points to a Latinas’ development in her career. “You can be anything you want with encouragement, education, and a little attitude,” she stated. Her message was one of inspiration for anyone willing to grow. In addition, her message demanded the action of the Latina community. “You belong, do not think any differently every time you walk into a room,” she asserted. “Always seize the opportunity.”
The first panel entitled Workforce Opportunities…Jobs in Today’s Economy aimed to open the panorama for Latinas in the Federal workforce. Moderated by Dr. Patricia T. Taylor, Chief, Intelligence Community EEO & Diversity, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), panelists included remarkable professional Latinas currently employed in diverse government agencies such as Pearl Esquibel, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Ilsa Ferro, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); Sara Manzano-Díaz, U.S. Department of Labor (DoL); Kathryn Medina, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Clara Villarreal Varner, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“Hispanics are the most fast growing group in the U.S., this is 5 percent more than the overall population groups growing rate, but the least representative in the work force,” said Dr. Taylor during her opening statement addressing how valuable it is to have these types of forums for Latinas. For that reason, the panelists were eager to show that the opportunities are available for Latinas to look, prepare, and apply for. And even though there is no master plan to get to the top, there are shareable truths. “There is no silver bullet that makes anyone successful,” said Ferro. “So I became very competitive. I tried to be the very best at any task. There is always some level of risk, but I could not live with myself knowing there was more to be done.”
Panelists also spoke about self-confidence, networking, work/life balance, and emphasized that young Latinas should be exposed to possibilities. Panelists also mentioned the challenges they’ve faced in their lives. Nevertheless, Manzano-Díaz, originally born in Puerto Rico, recommended above all “to dream big” as the first step towards professional realization.