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Yai Vargas moderates panel with Patricia Chavez and Staci LaToison during 30th annual HACR Symposium. Screenshot
Yai Vargas moderates panel with Patricia Chavez and Staci LaToison during 30th annual HACR Symposium. Screenshot

How Latinas can climb the corporate ladder

The 30th annual HACR Symposium featured a panel of three successful Latina professionals who provided tips on this very important topic.

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During day one of the 30th annual HACR Symposium, Yai Vargas, vice president of strategic engagements at initiatives for HACR, moderated an important session.

It was the only all-Latina session of the three-day Symposium, and the session was titled, “Rising the Corporate Ladder: Empowering Latina Advancement Through Acculturation.”

The panel featured Patricia Chavez, market executive at Bank of America; and Staci LaToison, Founder of Dream Big Ventures LLC.

Chavez leads a team of professionals committed to helping nonprofit and government organizations, as well as foundations, enhance their mission. 

“At Bank of America, we have had a long-term commitment to the Hispanic/Latino community, and we understand the importance of that community,” said Chavez. “We demonstrate that commitment through our partnerships.”

She comes from a family of Cuban immigrants who came to the United States and landed their first jobs in corporate America in Los Angeles at Bank of America.

“I learned through their determination, through their incredible work ethic, but most of all their pure optimism about the future,” said Chavez. “They showed me what’s possible.”

LaToison has 22 years of experience in corporate America at Chevron, developing a track record of cost and change management, business planning, business analysis and stakeholder management for global multimillion dollar projects. 

Prior to the start of the panel, Vargas provided what she described as “a daunting statistic” about the number of Latinos who make it onto corporate boards.

She said that out of about 5,000 corporate board seats on Fortune 500 companies, Latinas take up only 59.

“We make up less than 1% of corporate board seats,” said Vargas. “That number is daunting, but it’s important for us to have these types of conversations so that we can improve our personal and professional development. 

Financial Literacy

As someone who is a successful Latina executive for Bank of America, one of the key concepts Chavez stresses is the importance of financial literacy. 

She comes from a family of individuals who came to the United States with nothing, but taught her the value of hard work.

“We’ve always had a mentality in our family around paying it forward, making sure you’re delivering for everyone around you, and making sure that you show up and that you support and that you provide that coaching and guidance, and really pull people along with you,” said Chavez.

As a banker, she is a huge proponent of financial literacy, which can lead to homeownership, which is a key driver of wealth. 

Her approach: How to support wealth creation and transfer it from generation to generation. 

“I believe that is what will lift us all up down the road,” she added. 

LaToison also vouches for financial literacy, as she is a founding member of the Women’s Investment Group in Houston, the first of its kind in Texas. 

The women are shareholders of a minority-owned, woman-owned bank, and create opportunities to be at the table, and in rooms where they are often excluded. 

Investing in Yourself

Succeeding in corporate America as part of an underrepresented group is no easy task. 

Chavez can attest to that.

“It took a lot of time, I will say that it didn’t happen overnight,” she noted.

Her company’s leadership believing in her helped her tremendously along the way, as the company offered her a program to get one-on-one coaching from an executive coach.

“It was a game changer for me in terms of my presentation, my confidence, understanding ‘why me,’ and getting rid of that whole unconscious bias that goes on behind the scenes, and then the things that go on that get in your head when you’re doing public speaking,” Chavez said. 

LaToison preaches authenticity as a key to success. 

“You have to be your authentic self, you have to be you, you have to connect with people,” she said. 

To this point, Vargas added that it is important in the workplace to also bring your best self. 

Paying It Forward

Little progress can be made with mentorship. 

LaToison and Valdez have both made it part of their mission to mentor other Latinas who are on the come-up in their lives and careers. 

LaToison said that of all the compliments she has or can receive, the one that means the most to her is once where her niece’s father texted her saying he hopes his daughter grows up to be just like her. 

She said that everyone has the potential to be a mentor and role model to a family member, friend or colleague, and it’s something to take advantage of.

“Think about that, and be there and share… help bring everybody up with you,” she said. “We have to.” 

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