The Sky’s the Limit: MANA de San Diego Empowers Latinas to Lead

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The Sky’s the Limit: MANA de San Diego Empowers Latinas to Lead

Claudia Cardenas Rempel participating in MANA de San Diego Latina Success Leadership Program / Photo courtesy of MANA de San Diego

By Annelise Jolley

Across the workforce, Latinas hold less than four percent of managerial positions. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies count no women of color on their board of directors. And for every dollar earned by a white male, a Latina makes 53 cents.

These statistics are discouraging, but they’re not the full story. Minority women generate $361 billion as entrepreneurs, starting companies at four times the rate of all women-owned businesses. What positive changes might communities see if Latinas stepped into leadership roles across industries?

MANA exists to answer this question. A national organization with chapters across the U.S., MANA empowers Latinas through leadership development, community service, education, and advocacy. MANA members have gone on to serve on executive boards, leadership teams, and local government. In 2015, MANA de San Diego launched the Latina Success Leadership Program (LSLP) to further this mission.

“Latina Success Leadership Program came to fruition very similarly to how all MANA’s programs were launched,” says Rosa Hernández, MANA de San Diego’s Director of Development. “After a one-day Latina Success Conference was launched, our members wanted additional long-term support locally. There was a need, and our membership asked for MANA to step up.”

Since that time, over 250 women have completed the program, with a fifth cohort graduating soon. Hernández herself is a graduate of the first cohort.

The Latina Leadership Success Program includes four tracks, all aimed at helping women “go further and go higher in the workforce.” Sessions focus on personal and professional empowerment, networking and branding, resiliency, and civic engagement. Women leave the program ready to further invest in their professional futures, raise their voice, and impact their community.

“Especially in San Diego because we’re a border town, I think that having Latinas in leadership roles can be powerful,” says Claudia Cardenas Rempel, another LSLP graduate. Rempel works as the Operations Manager at American Medical Response (AMR), where she oversees the operational and financial performance of a workforce of 400 employees who provide ambulance service to four major hospital systems. It was through her employer, AMR, that Rempel first learned about MANA de San Diego. AMR provides financial support to further MANA’s work of investing in Latina leaders like Rempel, and AMR encouraged Claudia to participate and get involved.

“The program provides a safe place for other Latinas to encourage each other to grow, to share our fears and our internal challenges,” says Rempel. I used to see being young and Latina as a downfall. But after this program, I see that it sets you aside. In our culture it’s embedded [in us] that we are hard workers, and we are passionate. If you combine both of those and apply them in the workplace, the sky’s the limit.”

After graduating, Claudia joined the MANA Executive Board. She also became the President of the San Diego Ambulance Association, where she had served as Secretary since 2011. In both cases, she felt equipped to take on the opportunity thanks to her personal and professional development. “Claudia has served on our Board for two years and is now our Vice President of Operations,” says Inez González Perezchica, Executive Director of MANA de San Diego. “It is this type of corporate support of time, talent, and treasure that allows MANA de San Diego to be such an impactful, local non-profit organization.”

2019 MANA de San Diego Scholarship Ceremony / Photo courtesy of MANA de San Diego

MANA de San Diego hopes the program will empower Latinas to advocate for their role in the workplace as well as larger community issues. “Each participant has had an experience where MANA is able to provide tools to help them advocate for themselves,” Hernández says. Rempel adds that she now sees herself as an advocate for fellow Latinas, as well as her employees, community, and family: “Through this program, we’re taught that we have a greater responsibility—that it’s not just about me. It’s about being a leader, being actively involved in people and the community—through this we can change society and the world.”

Through initiatives like the Latina Success Leadership Program, MANA de San Diego creates cyclical change in our border city, empowering Latinas at every stage of their lives—from teenage years to post-retirement. Rempel plans to continue paying the investment forward by serving on MANA’s board. “I’d love to see Latinas continue to be strong and independent, not just at home but in the workplace. For so long, it’s been tradition for Latinas not to speak until they’ve been spoken to. MANA breaks these barriers down.”

Hernández adds, “When we empower a Latina, we empower a family; when a family feels empowered, a community advances; when a community advances, a nation can change its course. MANA de San Diego does that every day.”

Learn more about MANA de San Diego and support the Latina Success Leadership Program.