National Hispana Leadership Institute Class of 2011 (Courtesy NHLI)

Latina Leadership: We’ve come a long way, baby!

It should be no secret to anyone that today’s workforce is dramatically different from that of the 1950s and 60s. If it’s true that Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce – 14.8 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to Department of Labor’s Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2011 – Latinas are definitely leading the charge.

Although current statistics show that the 8.1 million Latinas in the U.S. labor force are over-represented in low-wage job sectors(“TRABAJADORAS:  Challenges and Conditions of Latina Workers in the United States”), there are more and more examples of Latinas in prominent positions in many industries. Yet, the numbers hardly reflect the numbers of Latinas in the ranks. This is precisely what the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI), is looking to change; and where the organization seems to be having the most impact.

In a report released Tuesday, called the “State of Latina Leaders in America,” the organization boasts that graduates of their Executive Leadership Program (ELP) pursue higher education, enjoy higher incomes, are committed to mentoring and have aggressive wealth and professional aspirations. The numbers are impressive, even more so when we compare them to the rest of the population: 53 percent of ELP Alumnae have an average yearly income of $100,000-149,999, while 23 percent report a yearly income of $150,000 and above. The likelihood of earning more than $100,000 greatly increases after enrolling and graduating, from NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program.

These are ambitious women: 13 percent of them have attained PhDs, compared to less than 6 percent for non-NHLI graduates. In 5-10 years, 59 percent of NHLI ELP Alumnae aspire to serve on corporate boards (59 percent), 22 percent plan to lead their own Non Profit, 20 percent plan to start their own business, 12 percent hope to run for political office; and 9 percent would like to sell their existing business.

“The program has been successful in fostering an entire generation of powerful Latinas who have pursued higher education, who have high income levels, who aspire to succeed in all levels, and most importantly, who give back to the community through mentorship,”says Midy Aponte, Chair of the Communication Committee for NHLI’s 25th Anniversary Annual Conference and 2011 ELP Alumn. “The next 25 years are critical and NHLI is using the survey to identify the trends and to ensure that the organization is addressing the needs of Latinas who are coming through the pipeline.”

Ultimately, that may be the secret to the organization’s success rates: its powerful network. The organization, which this week celebrated its 25th anniversary, counts among their alumni ranks some of today’s most prominent Latinas: Nely Galán from The Adelante Movement (Class of 1989), Author Esmeralda Santiago (Class of 1990), Catherine Pino from the Latino List (Class of 2006), and hundred others who have gone on to serve as top executives, leaders of organizations, heads of government agencies and more who reach back once they are in positions of power.

In fact, according to the survey, 97 percent of alumnae reported that they consider themselves to be mentors. 2011 ELP Alumni America Baez describes the ELP program as a sorority: “You have all these powerful Latinas who already have the drive and the talent and who already have demonstrated leadership in the community. And at time goes on, all of us continue to support and reach out to our other hermanas, regardless of the class we graduated from, so the successes continue to multiply.”

At a time when Latinas’ leadership talents are most needed yet so widely under-recognized, the NHLI program provides Latinas with a nourishing environment filled with developmental opportunities so these qualities can flourish, mature and get amplified: Precisely what is needed to inspire today’s up and coming “power-mujeres” and light up a bigger and brighter Latina future.

Latina Leadership: We’ve come a long way, baby! ramosheadshot e1337103616168 1 news NBC Latino News

Elianne Ramos is Principal/CEO of Speak Hispanic Marketing and Vice-Chair, Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). Under LATISM, she is also Chief Editor of the LATISM blog, and hostess to weekly Twitter chats reaching over 18.8 million impressions. Follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.

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