In 1972, UnidosUS decided to institute gender parity on their board, the first Latino civil rights organization to do so. This decision led the way for the organization’s Affiliate Network to lift up women leaders. Representation matters, and UnidosUS is proud to say that in 2021, out of the 278 organizations that are part of the Network, 56% of them are led by women; and almost 100% have women in senior management and leadership positions. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, UnidosUS spoke with Liz Gutierrez, founder and CEO of Enterprising Latinas, one of the many women leaders in our Network with an inspiring story of perseverance and dedication to strengthen our communities.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
Liz is soft-spoken. Thoughtful. Passionate. Profound. She founded UnidosUS Affiliate Enterprising Latinas, Inc. (ELI) in 2015, “late in my career,” she explains, but she also thinks it was when it had to happen. Before founding ELI, she spent 30 years in the community development field, “and I have been blessed to work with the most inspiring, with the most supportive organizations you can imagine,” Liz says. What impressed her the most about these organizations was that they knew what they were about, “that knew that their cause was justice.”
WOMEN’S SUCCESS IS COMMUNITY’S SUCCESS
For Liz, “justice” translated into a very simple Theory of Change: “We believe that when women do well, their children do better, and the community does too.” Learning from the international women’s movement, ELI is helping women get to a place of prosperity by meeting them where they are and as who they are, using a three-pillar system, the three As of Women’s Economic Development:
Furthermore, ELI understands that there also needs to be a community change because without it, “no matter what we do to help women get on that path to prosperity, there would be limitations in what they can achieve,” Liz explains. So, their work is also focusing on changing the local environment, the systems, and policies that keep women living in marginalized places and communities and converting social and environmental challenges into economic opportunities.
“For example, we are starting a child care center because there isn’t one in the community. We are starting a transportation service because there is no public transportation in this rural community,” Liz continues. “And we are leading the way in creating a blueprint for the redevelopment of the entire community because we want to make sure that people are not displaced and further hurt by an unequal economic development structure that can potentially gentrify an entire community.”
At ELI, they are writing their own stories of success, starting with the CEO herself. “It took me a while to take this step, to say: ‘This is something that I’m going to have to do,’” Liz explains about her resistance to found this organization. “I resisted the idea of taking on the leadership and the responsibility of starting an organization. But I have to say that it was what I was supposed to do. It’s not easy, it’s been a tremendous challenge, every ounce of my being has been put to the test, but—even though we are young […]—the accomplishments that we’ve been able to make so far, and the potential that we have to be able to create change, is significant,” Liz shares.
Liz reaffirmed that she felt that she was on the right track in leading the organization when she realized how many people were able to see and share her vision. As she described, it was almost overwhelming, people being able to “capture the vision that we’re after, and sometimes without even knowing us, supporting us with their words, with their actions, with their money. It’s been humbling of an experience.”
That feeling continues to grow when ELI is the catalyst of success stories like Carmen Galazar’s. Carmen is the child of migrant farmworkers; she has worked in the fields herself, and before realizing her full potential, she worked for more than 12 years at the cafeteria of the local school, “making a little bit more than minimum wage, with no opportunities for advancement,” Liz explains. “She had a number of obstacles in her way, but she’s a tremendously courageous woman, and in the midst of all that pain, she taught herself how to make cakes.”
Liz describes her cakes as “amazing creations,” and she’s taking all her strength and courage to turn her cake creation into a business venture. “She tells us that she sees now: she sees the possibilities that she didn’t think she had before.” Carmen’s whole family is working together to launch her business. For ELI, the fact that Carmen can see her potential and that her family can see it too—is part of what makes their work in their community so worth it.
LEADERSHIP IN FEMALE
Sometimes, all we need to see is someone who look like us doing something we didn’t think we could do, and that sparks a world of possibilities. In that spirit, below we list all the female Affiliate leaders in our Network, and what leadership means for a few of them.
“I would just challenge us as women not to question our leadership. We just have to make the decision.” – Liz Gutierrez, CEO, Enterprising Latinas, UnidosUS Affiliate.
“Thanks to people in leadership roles that have changed my whole trajectory, I’ve become the leader I am today.” Angelica Perez-Delgado, President & CEO, Ibero America Action League, UnidosUS Affiliate.
“Grit, perseverance, and believing in myself have helped shape my professional career as a female executive in the nonprofit sector. Leadership, more than a position, is a responsibility that demands grace, intentionality, and the willingness to continuously invest in learning and growth.” Sheroo Mukhtiar, CEO, SERJobs, UnidosUS Affiliate.
As Enterprising Latinas has written in their wall at their Wimama Opportunity Center: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen,” from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Choose to lead and inspire others to do it too. ¡Feliz Mes de la historia de la mujer a todas nuestras líderes de organizaciones afiliadas y a todas nuestras seguidoras!
Dr. Vasthi Acosta, Amber Charter School (NY); Dr. Karina Pavone, Amigos For Kids (FL); Dr.Maria Teresa Granillo, AVANCE, Inc., San Antonio (TX), Dr. Johanna Moya Fábregas, Con Mi MADRE, Austin (TX); Dr. Constance Jones, GOAL Academy, Pueblo (CO); Dr. Jennifer Fuqua, La Esperanza, Inc., Georgetown (DE); Dr. Gayle Lawn-Day, MHP Salud, Ypsilanti (MI); Dr. Elena Marin, Su Clínica Familiar, Harlingen (TX); Dr. Adriana Tamez, Tejano Center for Community Concerns, Houston (TX); Dr. Sylvia Acosta, YWCA El Paso del Norte Region, El Paso (TX); Mrs. Nilsa Lopez, Corporación de Desarrollo Económico, Vivienda y Salud (CODEVyS), Arecibo (PR); Mrs. Barbara Mancill, LCH Health and Community Services, Kennett Square (PA); Mrs. Monica Mejia, East LA Community Corporation, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Bridget Cooke, Adelante Mujeres, Forest Grove (OR); Ms. Sabina Serratos, Adelante, The Latino Resource Center, Toledo (OH); Ms. Esther Corpuz, Alivio Medical Center, Chicago (IL); Ms. Monica Villalobos, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Phoenix (AZ); Ms. Nilda Ruiz, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM), Philadelphia (PA); Ms. Paula Fitzgerald, Ayuda, Inc., Washington (DC); Ms. Margarita de Escontrias, Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation, Ventura (CA); Ms. Jan Gustafson-Corea, California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), Walnut (CA); Ms. Adriana Abich, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Emma Torres, Campesinos Sin Fronteras, Somerton (AZ); Ms. Allison Kokkoros, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Washington (DC); Ms. Lisa Cuestas, Casa Familiar, Inc., San Ysidro (CA); Ms. Juliana Gonzalez-Crussi, Center for Changing Lives, Chicago (IL); Ms.Hermelinda Sapien, Center for Employment Training, San Jose (CA); Ms. Yanil Teron, Center for Latino Progress (CPRF), Hartford (CT); Ms. Maria Caballero Rubio, Centro Cultural de Washington County, Cornelius (OR); Ms. ClaudiaCaballero, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, Knoxville (TN); Ms. Karen Menendez Coller, Centro Hispano of Dane County, Madison (WI); Ms. Myrna Peralta, CentroNía, Washington (DC); Ms. Nancy Maldonado, Chicano Federation of San Diego County, Inc., San Diego (CA); Ms. Jennifer Hibbard, Clinic for Education, Treatment and Prevention of Addiction, Inc. (CETPA), Norcross (GA); Ms. Yvonne Bell, Clínicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc., El Centro (CA); Ms. Irma Morin, Community Council of Idaho, Inc. Caldwell (ID); Ms. Sue Reynolds, Community HousingWorks, San Diego (CA); Ms. Estelina Garnett, Community Services of Nevada (CSNV), Las Vegas (NV); Ms. Ruby Azurdia Lee, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES), St. Paul (MN); Ms. Mayra Cedano, Comunidades Unidas, West Valley City (UT); Ms. Juliana Ospina Cano, Conexión Americas, Nashville (TN); Ms. CarolinaCabrera DiGiorgio, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc., Philadelphia (PA); Ms. Betty Alonso, ConnectFamilias, Miami (FL); Ms. Rose A. Amador-LeBeau, ConXión to Community, San Jose (CA); Ms. Michelle Neugebauer, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Brooklyn (NY); Ms. Vanessa Bertelli, DC Language Immersion Project Washington (DC); Ms. Rosita M. Romero, Dominican Women’s Development Center, New York (NY); Ms. Melissa Russoniello, El Barrio, Inc., Cleveland (OH); Ms. Estela Ortega, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle (WA); Ms. Sandra Figueroa-Villa, El Centro del Pueblo, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, El Centro Hispano, Inc., Durham (NC); Ms. Irene Caudillo, El Centro, Inc., Kansas City (KS); Ms. Katie Groh de Aviña, El Colegio Charter School, Minneapolis (MN); Ms. Laura Ponce, El Paso Community Action Program Project Bravo, Inc., El Paso (TX); Ms. Corinne Sanchez, El Proyecto del Barrio, Inc., Arleta (CA); Ms. Angeline Echeverría, El Pueblo, Inc., Raleigh (NC); Ms. Monique Daviss, El Sol Science and Arts Academy of Santa Ana, Santa Ana (CA); Ms. Andrea Plaza, Encuentro, Albuquerque (NM); Ms. Katya Nuques, Enlace Chicago, Chicago (IL); Ms. Liz Gutierrez, Enterprising Latinas, Wimauma (FL); Ms. Kirstin Chernawsky, Erie Neighborhood House, Chicago (IL); Ms. Maricela Garcia, Gads Hill Center, Chicago (IL); Ms. Debra Johnson- King, Global Empowerment Development Corporation, Inc., Homestea (FL); Ms. Evelyn Friedman, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc., Lawrence (MA); Ms. Patricia Mota, Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), Chicago (IL); Ms. Lupe Pearce, Hispanic American Organization, Allentown (PA); Ms. Margarita Grasing, Hispanic Brotherhood, Inc., Rockville Centre (NY); Ms. Evelyn Esparza, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Grand Rapids (MI); Ms. Gina Gomez, Hispanic Community Services, Inc., Jonesboro (AR); Ms. Elsa Candelario, Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey, Inc., Camden (NJ); Ms. Josephine Mercado, Hispanic Health Initiatives, Inc., DeBary (FL); Ms. Isabel Rubio, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), Birmingham (AL); Ms. Maria Pinzon, Hispanic Services Council, Tampa (FL); Ms. Josie Bacallao, Hispanic Unity of Florida, Inc., Hollywood (FL); Ms. Dora Trinidad Campos, Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Austin (TX); Ms. Margarita Solorzano, Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, Springdale (AR); Ms. Sylvia Alvarez, Housing and Education Alliance, Tampa (FL); Ms. Celina Miranda, Hyde Square Task Force, Jamaica Plain (MA); Ms. Angelica Perez-Delgado, Ibero-American Action League, Inc., Rochester (NY); Ms. Terri Sterling, Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN), Boise (ID); Ms. Magdalena Rivera, Illinois Migrant Council, Chicago (IL); Ms. Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Chicago (IL); Ms. Nelly Sapinski, Jamestown Community Center, San Francisco (CA); Ms. Cindy Kelley, King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools, San Diego (CA); Ms. Marcia Aaron, KIPP SoCal Public Schools, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Sehba Ali, KIPP Texas, Houston (TX); Ms. Jane Garcia, La Clínica de La Raza, Inc., Oakland (CA); Ms. Catalina Sol, La Clínica del Pueblo, Washington (DC); Ms. Zara Marselian, La Maestra Community Health Centers, San Diego (CA); Ms. Stacy Johnson, La Paz Chattanooga, Chattanooga (TN); Ms. Juanita Valdez-Cox, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), San Juan (TX); Ms. Maria M. Matos, Latin American Community Center, Wilmington (DE); Ms. Diane Cottman, Latin American Montessori Bilingual (LAMB) Public Charter School, Washington (DC); Ms. Lupi Quinteros-Grady, Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), Washington (DC); Ms. Lissette Castañeda, Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA), Chicago (IL); Ms. Marla Bilonick, Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), Washington (DC); Ms. Marucci Guzman, Latino Leadership, Inc., Orlando (FL); Ms. Sylvia Puente, Latino Policy Forum, Chicago (IL); Ms. Jessica Andors, Lawrence CommunityWorks, Lawrence (MA); Ms. Ariana Goldring, Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Deborah Axt, Make the Road New York, Brooklyn (NY); Ms. Jenny Hunt, Mariposa Dual Language Academy, Reno (NV); Ms. Maria S. Gomez, Mary’s Center, Washington (DC); Ms. Monique Lovato, Mi Casa Resource Center, Denver (CO); Ms. Geri Vargas, Mujeres Latinas de Stanislaus, Modesto (CA); Ms. Linda Tortolero, Mujeres Latinas En Acción, Chicago (IL); Ms. Maria Tukeva, Multicultural Career Intern Program, Washington (DC); Ms. Yoselin Estrella, Neighborhood Housing Services of Queens CDC, Inc., Woodside (NY); Ms. Melanie Steele, Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire, Inc., San Bernardino (CA); Ms. Magdalena Cervantes, New Economics for Women, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Jenice Contreras, Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development, Cleveland (OH); Ms. Jacqueline Elliot, Partnerships to Uplift Communities, Inc., Burbank (CA); Ms. Petra Falcon, Promise Arizona, Phoenix (AZ); Ms. Kim Ruiz, Puerto Rican Association for Human Development, Inc., Perth Amboy (NJ); Ms. Isabel Garcia, Redlands Christian Migrant Association, Immokalee (FL); Ms. Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo, Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality, Salem (OR); Ms. Sheroo Muhktiar, SER Jobs, Houston (TX); Ms. Alexandra Oliver-Dávila, Sociedad Latina, Roxbury (MA); Ms. Ramonita Vargas, Spanish American Committee, Cleveland (OH); Ms. Gabriela Roman, Spanish Coalition for Housing, Chicago (IL); Ms. Martha C. Egas, Spanish Education Development (SED) Center, Washington (DC); Ms. Alicia Contreras, Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, Oakland (CA); Ms. Lauren Lizárraga, TELACU Education Foundation, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Lisa Sherman Nikolaus, Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), Nashville (TN); Ms. Florencia Velasco-Fortner, The Concilio, Dallas (TX); Ms. Constantina Mizis, The Latino Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Alliance (LAMDA), Cicero (IL); Ms. Luz Maria Ayala, TODEC Legal Center, Perris (CA); Ms. Luz Corcuera, UnidosNow, Sarasota (FL); Ms. Carmen Heredia, Valle del Sol, Phoenix (AZ); Ms. Priscilla DinnAlvarez, Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA), Mercedes (TX); Ms. Rosa Lopez, Vecinos Unidos, Inc., Dallas (TX); Ms. Bertha Garcia, Ventura County Community Development Corporation (VCCDC), Oxnard (CA); Ms. Carol J. Ornelas, Visionary Home Builders of California, Inc., Stockton (CA); Ms. San Juana Olivares, Voces Battle, Creek (MI); Ms. Yvette King-Berg, Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools (YPICS), Granada Hills (CA); Ms. Jessica Perry and Ms. Marita Moran-Wildenauer, Academia Cesar Chavez, St. Paul (MN); Ms. Elizabeth Lutz, Bexar County Community Health Collaborative, San Antonio (TX); Ms. Claudia Di Giorgio, Centro De Ayuda Para Los Hispanos, Inc., Winter Park (FL); Ms. Daysi Funes, Centro Romero, Chicago (IL); Ms. Edith Molina, El Programa Hispano Católico, Gresham (OR); Ms. Linda Mazon Gutierrez, Hispanic Women’s Corporation, Phoenix (AZ); Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, HOLA Ohio, Painesville (OH); Ms. Rosamaria Cristello, Latino Community Center (LCC), Pittsburgh (PA); Ms. Inez Gonzalez, MANA de San Diego, San Diego (CA); Ms. Michelle Merced, Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada, Inc., North Las Vegas (NV); Ms. Andrea Barela, NEWSED Community Development Corporation, Denver (CO); Ms. Carmen Cosme-Pitre, One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico, San Juan (PR); Ms. Maria Rodriguez, Rural Community Development Resources, Yakima (WA); Ms. TanyaGonzalez, Sacred Heart Center (SHC), Richmond (VA); Ms. Jocelyn Duarte, Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund (SALEF), Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Kathie Lembo, South Bay Community Services, Chula Vista (CA); Ms. Veronika Molina, Southwestern Regional Housing and Community Development Corporation, Deming (NM); Ms. Rhonda Deomampo, Synergy Academies, Los Angeles (CA); Ms. Andrea Aschwab Galindo, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, Inc., Union City (CA); and Ms. Paloma Hernandez, Urban Health Plan, Bronx (NY).
This Women’s History Month, UnidosUS staff joined our DC-based Affiliate Mary’s Center for an Entre Mujeres panel event in celebration of Women’s History Month. Entre Mujeres, an UnidosUS education Affiliate […]