Diversity is a very big topic right now – as it should be. Many companies are pushing forward in trying to create a better environment and opportunity for their employees, but here’s the problem: it remains surface level. Creating diversity and providing opportunity to people of color cannot happen if companies do not understand what their minority employees are feeling, the challenges they face day in and day out, and how their futures are affected by systemic prejudice. So, I thought I’d share from a Latina woman’s point of view – a woman that came from a low-income family, daughter of immigrants, yet managed to get an MBA, lead, and succeed in the banking and investment world for 20 years. This may not be what every Latina or minority woman is feeling, but it’s what I felt and if someone out there is feeling this way, you’re not alone.
Here are 4 challenges I faced as a Latina woman in the banking & investment industry:
1. Fighting my own insecurities
As a kid, I grew up in the city and there was 1 rule that was very important: Do NOT leave your bike outside! If I left it outside for even 5 minutes, it could get stolen. I remember wishing I could live in the suburbs where my bike wouldn’t get stolen and I’d have grass to play on. That was it – that was my dream. So obviously, I didn’t come from money, yet here I was advising millionaires on how to invest theirs. Yes, I had over a decade of experience, solid securities training, an MBA, numbers to prove I was growing my clients’ wealth, glowing reviews, yet the feeling of being an imposter was still there. Why? Because subconsciously, I still saw myself as a Latina girl from the city with immigrant parents. This view of myself still lived inside me, and as long as this subconscious image of myself was there, all the education, experience, or awards I had attained weren’t enough to rid myself of imposter syndrome. It was a subconscious belief system, a mindset, that I had to consciously heal.
2. Being placed in lower opportunity areas based on my language
There’s no denying that there is systemic prejudice in the workforce based on language and cultural background. As soon as I say that I speak Spanish, management wants to place me in predominantly Spanish speaking areas, which typically are low to moderate income. As a financial advisor you do not want to be in low to moderate income areas, you want to be in high-net-worth areas because it’s easier to grow your book of business with larger balances. So, the fact that I speak Spanish, albeit a highly useful skill for corporations, can also hold me back because I’m pigeonholed to certain demographic and geographic locations. My skills to speak Spanish should be my choice to use and should increase my potential and income rather than decrease it. This is why I removed ‘Spanish speaking’ from my resume and corporate profile.
3. Dealing with the Boy’s Club
Did you think I’d leave this one out? In the financial industry there most certainly is a boy’s club albeit most try to deny it. This is a club of chaps that are favored by upper management. Big deal…we’ve dealt with favoritism since kindergarten, so it wasn’t something that bothered me much, but I acknowledged that it was a challenge I’d have to overcome. Was I treated differently than my male colleagues? Absolutely. Sometimes it worked in my favor and sometimes it didn’t. I stopped getting upset that I wasn’t part of the boy’s club and instead learned how to leverage being a woman in the industry.
4. Feeling like a sellout
The fact that I denied speaking Spanish in order to be placed in higher net worth areas was unsettling to me. My last name is ‘Rojas’ for crying out loud and my first language was indeed Spanish. I love my culture and I love my people, but I also wanted to succeed in good old corporate America. Furthermore, as a minority, I began seeing how the entire system is failing low to moderate income people. Investment firms and advisors typically have minimums they take. This is understandable as someone investing $25k is the same amount of work and customer service as someone investing $500k. The problem is that the lower ticket clients don’t have a place to go for advice. If the advisor spends time with them, they are taking time from generating more high net worth leads or servicing their current clients. Unfortunately, the people that don’t have much to invest are the ones that direly need the financial education that advisors and money coaches can provide. So, it becomes a cycle where financial ignorance is perpetuated.
Success shouldn’t depend on a class or caste system, and these systems should not be perpetuated by corporate america. Unfortunately there continues to be systemic prejudice that affects the futures of our minorities. This isn’t an “I had a bad day” type of problem; the opportunities missed by minorities because of these challenges perpetuate stratification and serve as a confirmation of limiting beliefs that already lurk in our subconscious. These challenges are the reason I began my speaking and coaching practice where I help people understand the mindset behind money. I’m releasing a book this year designed to shift your mindset around money, yourself, and the world. My vision is to help people abandon their limiting beliefs so they can create the abundant life they deserve despite the cultural and societal challenges they may face.
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