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Nov 19, 2018

Latinas Lead Holds 1st Leadership Academy at Rutgers

WASHINGTON, DC / NEWBRUNSWICK, NJ – The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) held its first-ever Leadership Academy of NHCSL’s Latinas Lead Initiative this weekend, in partnership with the prestigious Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), which is housed within Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. The academy included training sessions, panel discussions, and guest speakers that came to help current Latina state legislators scale the leadership ranks in their State Capitols, as well as recruit potential Latina candidates for state-level office.

“As the first Latina to chair a Congressional committee, it was a pleasure to share my experiences and learn from the achievements of my Latina sisters who still face many of the same challenges I faced when I first ran for local office and later for Congress. Through skills institutes like this one, Latinas can continue building on the success of the pink wave that is only the beginning of what’s in store for our community. My message to any Latina that is contemplating running for elective office is this: do not ‘wait your turn,’ or settle for anything less than you deserve. Our time is now!” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY).

Though this years’ election produced an unprecedented increase in the number of women candidates for office at all levels of government, Latinas in particular are still vastly underrepresented. As of 2016, Latinas only made up 1.3% of state legislative seats and only 1.6 % of Congressional seats. Much more needs to be done to close that gap and that is the mission of the Latinas Lead Initiative and their first Leadership Academy.

“Empowering Latina officeholders and candidates should be a bipartisan objective. Through the training and networking sessions we participated in, we are much better prepared to tackle the unique challenges Latinas face when attempting to scale the ladders of leadership or run for higher office. We not only learned valuable lessons from experts – and most importantly, each other – but we also committed to going back home and identifying talented Latinas and mentor them, so we can finally have enough seats at the table. This is just the beginning and I’m excited to be part of this transformational initiative,” the Chair of NHCSL’s Latinas Lead Initiative, Senator Patricia Torres Ray (MN) said.

Throughout the weekend, Latina lawmakers and aspiring legislators heard from experts on a range of issues, including: Research on Latinas in Politics, leadership skills, communications tools, digital marketing techniques, social media outreach, insight on how to run effective campaigns, and more.

“Three years ago, NHCSL founded the Latinas Lead Initiative thanks to the leadership of our outstanding members, most especially its Chair, Senator Patricia Torres Ray (MN). The purpose of the initiative is simple: close the gap between the growing population of Latinas in this nation and their disproportionately low representation in elected office. As state legislators, Latinos and Americans, we need to do everything in our power to ensure that our government reflects the diversity of our people; all of the people. That is why we changed our bylaws to ensure absolute gender parity in our leadership body, and that is why we signed the historic agreement with CAWP in order to advance this mission,” NHCSL President Senator Carmelo Ríos said.

Other experts and special guests that spoke to Latina legislators throughout the weekend included: Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY); Senator Patricia Torres Ray (MN), Chair, NHCSL’s Latinas Lead Initiative; Debbie Walsh, Director, CAWP; Ida Castro, Vice President of Community Engagement and Chief Diversity Officer, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine; Christina Bejarano, Professor, University of Kansas; Christabel Cruz, Ph.D. candidate, Rutgers University; Anna Sampaio, Professor, Santa Clara University; Eva Guidarini, U.S. Politics & Government Outreach, Facebook; Ana Martínez, U.S. Public Policy, Facebook; Jean Sinzdak, Associate Director, CAWP; Vanessa Cajina, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE); Patricia Campos-Medina, President, LUPE PAC and Board Member, PODER PAC; Laura Maristany, Associate Director, Constructive Politics, Democracy Fund; Tara Dowdell, The Tara Dowdell Group; Sonia Santana, Director of Campaign Strategy, Organizing & Engagement Campaigns Department, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund; Larissa Martínez, Women’s Public Leadership Network (WPLN); Christine Jahnke, Positive Communications; and Kenneth Romero-Cruz, Executive Director, NHCSL.

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NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country. NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 410 Hispanic legislators. For more information visit www.nhcsl.org.