Latina-American professionals share advice on staying “true to yourself”

(From left to right: Rosalin Acosta, Marcela Merino and Millie González. By Cass Doherty)

When Rosalin Acosta, secretary of labor and workforce development, was working at a bank, she dressed like a man. “I felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I looked like a woman,” she said.

“It was a world of men,” Acosta added.

Acosta, Marcela Merino, the associate product manager for Harvard Business School, and Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, spoke about the struggles of being Hispanic women in the workforce in the Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The event was part of the CIE’s Hispanic American Heritage month, and the host was senior Luisanna Castillo, vice president of M.I.S.S.

The panelists gave students advice on how to begin networking, combat stereotypes about Latinas and not letting ethnicity or gender be boundaries.

Merino said, “I think being a woman and Hispanic adds a little bit of weight to influence others, to make sure you’re making change and driving positive change.” She said one of the challenges is “making sure that your voice is heard,” and added that keeping to a “mission” and having a positive attitude makes anything possible.

Acosta said the financial world was predominately comprised of men when she started in the ’80s. She said that it’s “still the case today.” She had to “learn the way the game is played” and be confident  “as a woman – and as a minority woman, you have to be even more confident.”

González said women should use gender “to [their] advantage.” She said another reason she has succeeded is due to her credibility.

The panelists said they all faced challenges because they are both women and Hispanic. They all struggled to enter the workforce, although Acosta said she didn’t face as many for being Hispanic because she “didn’t look like a Cuban.”

Merino said, “Embrace your identity,” adding she always tries to be connected to something funded by Hispanics or part of the Hispanic community because it helps her to feel at home.

González said she “loves stereotypes, because they may have a little element of truth.” She added it’s a “common element” of being Latina.

She told the audience to embrace their ethnicity because it is part of who they are.

Merino said, “If you stay true to yourself, true to your identity, you find that is what makes you unique.”

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