The Latina Project Fosters Skills, Builds Confidence
A new business school program nurturing first-generation Latino students embodies the values of International Women’s Day, a celebration of female achievement and a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world.
Guided by businesswomen who have faced – and overcome – the challenges they expect to face, the first cohort of The Latina Project recently completed the intensive five-week course portion for the new program at the University of Miami Patti and Allan Miami Herbert Business School.
“The speakers were all amazing and so inspiring and all of them were women, and a lot of Hispanics, like me. I’m so grateful for the experience,” said Angelica Peralta, a senior student majoring in public relations and minoring in entrepreneurship. , and one of the 29 students in the cohort.
“Hearing the stories of these women and knowing that they were once students like me and hearing that they succeeded and that I can do it too, it really boosted my confidence,” added Peralta, the new president of the college section of the Public Relations Student Society of America and selected as a recipient of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund at the Entrepreneurship Summit.
Fernanda Salas Hormazábal, a second-year student majoring in Marketing and pursuing a minor in Studio Art/Graphic Design, also participated and highlighted the unique personality of the teaching.
“There were so many little lessons that I took to heart from the presenters, and I definitely feel more confident now,” she said.
Born in Miami, Salas Hormazábal moved with her family to Chile when she was just a week old. She lived there and was educated until she entered university. She was very involved in Hispanic Heritage Month activities when a friend told her about the project, noting that she would be an ideal candidate.
“I joined The Latina Project because I wanted mentorship. I had just started business school and had come from another major and felt a bit lost, but now I have more direction “, she said.
“All but one of the speakers were female and they gave us a perspective you don’t usually get – acknowledging that it is often harder for a woman to negotiate with a man and that we are sometimes treated as less and so you have to go there knowing what you want and having the confidence to ask for what you want,” added Salas Hormazábal.
The difficulties identified by Salas Hormazabal are precisely those that International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, seeks to resolve. The global celebration, whose theme this year is “BreaktheBias”, focuses on standing up for a diverse, equitable and inclusive world.
Project Latina launched in mid-October, selections were announced in January, and the first cohort completed the program’s instructional phase in late February. Promising entrepreneurs all now have at least one mentor, a businesswoman with experience in a facet of the industry that most interests them.
“These young women are more capable now and ready and willing to make meaningful contributions to society because we have prepared them,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, entrepreneurship lecturer and program director for The Latina Project.
Participants started by building a personal brand and learning networking skills, then moved on to negotiating, interviewing, understanding financial statements, raising capital, and creating career-mapping strategies and goals. . They attended classes every Friday and worked as a team and individually to demonstrate their learning, whether it was geared towards a corporate career or launching a startup.
Alvarez-Diaz, a double graduate, pointed out that the modules were taught by the business school’s top female faculty and that a strong cadre of female professionals as well as professors provided the essential mentorship component of the project. .
“Most of these young women in the program don’t have the necessary connections and we want to share with them the work we’ve already done and the connections we’ve made,” she said.
Participants range from freshman to graduate students and come from many different academic fields. “Fresh years want contacts and internships, while a graduate student is looking for a job,” Alvarez-Diaz explained. “We personalize it based on where the woman is in her career and what she’s looking to get out of the program’s trajectory – that’s the beauty of it.”
Alvarez-Diaz noted that Project Latina donors Ana Teresa Rodriguez and Luis Garcia encouraged the school to follow the “Girls Who Invest” model, which was launched at the University of Pennsylvania in 2015.
Seema Hingorani, Founder and President of this program, was eager to share best practices and provide requested mentorship.
“She really underscored how important it is, especially for women, to learn technical business skills, for anything STEM, and to have same-sex role models to guide them.” , said Alvarez-Diaz. “It’s been amazing having them as mentors and making sure we’re successful in our program.”
Alvarez-Diaz emphasized that she and other professors and professional mentors are fortunate to be “on the other side” of what students face. By reflecting on their own experience, they hope to ease the burden and reduce the challenges these new entrepreneurs face.
“We worked really hard and did our best to get noticed, but without contact a lot of us bounced back,” she added. “Imagine if we had someone who was our mentor, someone who told us to interview for such and such a job, that this is what you have to do to level up, instead of letting it go. produce organically,” she continued. “We want to help these young women by sharing our experience and by sharing the work, the efforts and the connections that we have created.
Ileana Musa, who is chief executive of Morgan Stanley and one of the program’s mentors, agrees: “We want them to be able to get there in half the time it took us.