The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) is moving forward several strategies to help empower the Latino community. Through trainings, outreach and advocacy efforts, NHLA works to identify and support entry-level through Cabinet-level candidates pursuing presidential appointments. They have been involved in supporting the rise of several Latino professionals now serving in some of the highest ranks in government, including U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta and Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.
NHLA has also launched LatinasRepresent, a joint initiative of Political Parity and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, to call out the lack of elected Latina leaders and change the political landscape to reflect all Americans. Though there are over 25 million Latinas in the U.S., just 109 of the 8,236 seats in state and national political office are held by Latinas. The project stems from research that involved interviews, national polls, and focus groups.
Since the launch in February of 2014, NHLA has hosted LatinasRepresent forums in Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C. and San Antonio to spotlight Latina leaders and to embolden more Latinas to pursue public service leadership roles. NHLA has a digital campaign with the latinasrepresent.org web site; over 70 videos on the LatinasRepresent Youtube Channel, Google+ Hangouts with Latina leaders including journalist Maria Hinojosa, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and civil rights legend Dolores Huerta. Conversations and stories of inspiring Latinas are also regularly shared on Twitter, via the hashtag #LatinasRepresent.
When asked why Latinas are underrepresented in high-government positions, Melody Gonzalez, Presidential Appointments Program Director at NHLA, said, “I think Latinas are natural-born leaders. The problem isn’t necessarily that Latinas don’t want to serve in leadership roles or run for office — the problem is that we need to be more intentional about tackling institutional barriers and about building alliances so that Latinas can be better poised to run and win…I’ve been really inspired to see that in every city we go to, nearly 200 women come out to support the LatinasRepresent event — and many of them are voicing their interest in one day running for office. The more we lift up stories of successful Latina elected officials and candidates, and the more communities come together to take action on this element of underrepresentation, the more we’ll start to see the political landscape change.”
But what about those Latinitas that feel they are not ready to run for office but want to be involved with positive change in our community? Melody had some great advice for us as well.
“There are so many ways for Latinas of all ages to make an impact and become involved in the political process,” said Melody, “Register to vote, make sure that every eligible voter around you is registered to vote, and make sure the circle of voters you know actually show up on election day to vote.”
Other great ways for Latinitas to bring change to their community are:
- Intern and work for elected officials in your local government, at your state capitol, and in the U.S. Congress.
- Ask a community leader or elected official to serve as a mentor.
- Volunteer, work and/or fundraise for the campaign of a candidate you believe in.
- Explore paid internships and careers in the federal government through usajobs.gov.
- Apply for professional and leadership development programs organized by great organizations like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Council of La Raza Lideres Program, National Hispana Leadership Institute, US Hispanic Leadership Institute, Voto Latino, and others. A great new online resource to explore for programs and scholarship opportunities is https://www.chcinextopp.net/.
- Be intentional about building a network of real, lasting relationships with people who support you. Write down a list of your leadership goals and talk to your circle of mentors and supporters about your goals. Ask your support network for their help and ideas to help you achieve those goals.
- Consider running for office — and encourage wise Latinas around you to run for office.
If you are interested in learning more about NHLA, visit: http://nationalhispanicleadership.org