Showing Up Latina

Showing Up Latina

Written by Ani Fonte, EVP Managing Director at VMLY&R Commerce and member of Nosotros, VMLY&R's Hispanic Employee Resource Group

The last few years have seen a bit of a tipping point. The LatinX population continues to become louder. As we become the majority, we’ve seen an increase in representation and heard Hispanic voices rise from what were the margins of the population.

In comes Latin Heritage month. A time when a spotlight shows up on many Latinas across organizations. We are tapped for thoughts, insights, and stories. I have always had mixed feelings about this. One month to show up, then step back. Nah, no more.

The one thing that has always rung true is that smile I get when I hear an accented voice or someone saying something in Spanish. This is always met with a “what’s your background?”. From there, the stories and connections flow. And these connections have given me perspective, strength, and a want for more.

So, this year I am challenging myself to Show Up Latina. Don’t get me wrong, I have never hidden who I am, but my name does not scream Latina. So, when I do speak Spanish, I am often greeted with surprise.

I got to thinking about how I can be a stronger connection to my heritage. Not just one month, but consistently.

Here are three things I am stepping into this year.

Stand Out / Don’t Blend In:

Like many of us 1st geners, I was raised by parents that came to this country to find opportunities to live and succeed and did this by not standing out and working to fit in. In fact, research by the Center for Talent Innovation shows that the majority of LatinX (76%) are repressing cultural markers at work.

From body language, appearance, communication style, and more. All the things that define how we show up as executives at work. • Reality is that which makes us LatinX is what brings the diversity of thought, drives work to be truly representative of who we are, and creates space to be our authentic selves. It also creates a network where we can reach out, learn, and share. This year as I supported self-identity in signatures, I also added “Ella” to it. It’s a small thing, but it has opened so many conversations and opportunities to show up and share my background. Being seen seeds a movement.

Build a Network:

Latinas under-index in having mentors. Reaching out for help when you are working to fit in makes it hard to raise a hand for help. And raising a hand for help could feel like you are admitting failure. Well, we’ve got this wrong. Reaching out to just chat about careers and what folks are up to is a great way to learn about a career where you might be the first to have chosen it in your family. ERGs are also great ways to expand your network, gain perspective, find your voice, and learn from other paths and experiences - know you are not alone. ERGs also provide incredible support in recruiting and retaining employees, ultimately driving greater representation.

There is strength & confidence in numbers.

Be Myself:

Being Latina is different for all of us. For me, I have never been guilty of being quiet. When you are raised in an extended family in Miami where all speak their mind at the same time and never miss a beat, adjusting to “Midwest nice” and one-at-a-time conversations has been challenging. I have learned the importance of listening. But I can’t deny my love of the noise from a team in a buzz. I relish my Nosotros ERG meetings with various conversations happening all at once and the laughter filling the rooms and screens. For others, joy comes from various markers from their upbringing. We are not all the same. Showing up true is how we will end stereotypes, especially in our industry. No, my mom did not stay at home to cook and clean. She is blonde and blue-eyed. She taught herself English and put herself through community college. She does always dress up. She will always be my inspiration and my hero. It is a mixed bag of expectations, all of which collectively make me uniquely Latina and part of a LatinX community all at once.

Showing up authentically breaks stereotypes.

While my approach is my own, I believe that showing up and representing who we are will always make an impact. Change perceptions. And if nothing else by, showing up true to yourself makes for a happier you and sets up our next generation to be stronger and supported to brave their path.

Oh, one more thing.

Help each other out:

In these times when many have either lost their jobs or are looking for new adventures, I welcome you to reach out. Be it to chat, to make a connection, or just to get some advice. I may be an authentic, loud, passionate Latina as 1, but as a part of a network, we are all a force to contend with. Yo soy Latina.

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