In celebration of Women’s History month, MoneyMio had the privilege to interview two amazing Latinas implementing change in their communities and across the U.S. We are honored to feature them on MoneyMio!
GETTING TO KNOW CATHERINE SANDOVAL…
Catherine Sandoval makes me want to tie up my laces, roll up my sleeves, and storm the world for good. In 1984, she became the first Latina Rhodes Scholar selected to attend Oxford University. She has a B.A. from Yale University, an MPhil from Oxford, and a JD from Sanford Law School. Catherine currently serves as a commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). She is the first Latina ever to hold this post. Catherine is also a tenured Professor at Santa Clara Law School. Born and raised in East Los Angeles, she strives passionately to improve Latino access to higher education. She is a trailblazer and history-maker.
How has higher education changed for Latinos since you were a student in the 1970s / 80s to today?
There are now more courses on Latino studies and more Latino students in some higher education programs, but limited understanding about Latino experiences and Latino studies persists. The number of Latinos in graduate school is still small, though it has grown. While there are more Latino professors today, their numbers are not commensurate with Latino students or the population. When I was in college there was no public internet access- unimaginable for today’s students. We hit the books, and I was lucky to go to a college that was one of the first to get Internet access through green-screen computers in the basement. Sadly, there are still many students who lack access to high-speed Internet at home, and even some whose schools have poor or spotty Internet access. Uneven or unaffordable Internet access is a growing gap throughout the educational process, particularly in rural areas and for low-income families.
Today it is harder for students to enroll in classes in public higher educational institutions, particularly in California. This slows graduation time and rates, increases living expenses, and opportunity costs. Our society needs to invest in opportunities for higher education capacity and student support. Today there are better scholarships for very low income students at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, universities with large endowments. Costs are increasing at most colleges, and delayed graduation follows due to enrollment difficulties, which exacerbates the cost burden. There is still a large need for academic and social support, especially for first generation Latino college students.
What are some words of advice you would like to share with this generation of Latinos?
My Advice: study hard, understand, appreciate, and be proud of your culture and heritage! Seek to understand others as you would want them to understand you. Act with integrity. Share on the Internet only what you want to persist forever. Imagine your abuelita looking at your Internet posts. Would she be proud?
Don’t assume or let others assume that everyone has the same opportunities or access. For example, some communities have access to high-speed Internet, while others don’t- particularly in rural areas and on Native American reservations. Many low-income residents of urban areas cannot afford high-speed Internet access, creating homework, health, and job access gaps. Pay attention to these differences and work with others to close these gaps.
In your opinion, how do you think the lack of diversity in media portrayals of Latinos affects our community?
Stereotypes persist and Latinas continue to be portrayed as bellas, maids, heavily-accented, or as absent, while Latinos are often portrayed as criminals or in manual labor occupations. We are rarely portrayed as professors, doctors, lawyers, or professionals with advanced degrees. There are few Latino Academic success stories told. Where are the Latino geniuses on Scorpion, the high-IQ team that solves crimes and saves the day? We have Latino/Latina astronauts and Rhodes Scholars, but those successes and roles are not portrayed on television. Today’s media frames limit perceptions of Latinos’ interests, expertise, and experience, and constrain conceptions of what is possible.
What are your hopes for Latinos in higher education and how are you implementing change?
My hopes for Latinos in higher education is for more opportunities for Latinos to go to college, attend graduate school, and to graduate on time. I hope and work for more support services for Latino students and classes that explore Latino issues, and to have more Latino/Latina professors and administrators. As a Law Professor, I am committed to helping students become great lawyers who will make a difference in the world. I encourage students to take advantage of academic opportunities, and to become experts in global issues. I work hard to educate students, so that they can improve our environment, and ensure that all have access to services such as: high-speed Internet, clean water and energy, and improve prospects for our communities.
In my many years as an academic and professional, I’ve served as an advisor to the La Raza Law Students Association at Santa Clara Law, which works to support and graduate Latino students. My husband and I are benefactors of a fellowship to support research in Latino/Latina issues at Yale- the “Catherine J. Kissee-Sandoval Scholar of the House fellowship.” When I was a college student at Yale, I was a Scholar of the House, and I researched Affirmative Action in top-tier colleges, focusing on Latinos. The Rhodes Committee told me that my significant academic research was one of the reasons they selected me for the Rhodes scholarship. In 2015, La Casa Cultural at Yale revived the Scholar of the House program in my name, and I’m proud to support a new generation of Latino/Latina scholars.
Can you share with us a favorite childhood dish or memory ?
Sopes! My two sisters and I anxiously awaited the sopes Mom made on the stove. We grabbed them, hot off el comal. Growing up, we told our friends they were Arizona-style flat enchiladas because sopes were uncommon then, even in predominantly Mexican-American Los Angeles. Modern menus describe them as masa boats, filled with meat and vegetables. During a break from Oxford, my sisters and I visited my familia in Benson, Arizona where my mom grew up. Benson is a small town with dusty roads. My cousins Frankie, Johnny, and Smiles (Ismael) taught me how to make sopes with milk instead of water. Johnny showed me his favorite recipe, sopes made with beer and masa harina. Sopes carry el sabor of my childhood in East LA, and visits con mi familia in Arizona. They are the symbol of me missing Mexican food and mi familia while at Oxford.
GETTING TO KNOW YESENIA MORILLO…
Yesenia Morillo-Gual is a ceiling-breaker and change-maker. The first person in her immediate family to earn an advanced college degree, she now holds an executive director position at one of the world’s largest financial services firms. In 2010, Yesenia founded Proud to Be Latina, a professional development network created to help Latinas to banish self-doubt and achieve their full potential. She is explosive force for good, working tirelessly to fulfill her commitments to Proud to Be a Latina, her profession, and family. Alongside her work in finance, Yesenia is also studying for a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership.
How is PROUD TO BE A LATINA shifting the dynamics of the community?
Proud To Be Latina is a personal and professional development network that educates, empowers and encourages Latinas to rise to their full potential.”
– PROUD TO BE LATINA
We’re empowering women to think in new ways – the old methods of succeeding in business aren’t getting us into the higher ranks. This year we’ve adopted the theme of “disruptive leadership.” This is a new proactive approach of responsibility, which includes us reaching back into our communities, connecting, mentoring, and supporting one another. The biggest part of the challenge is feeling like we’re All Alone. Our community sometimes stays stuck in a space of mental scarcity, and we still perpetuate the idea of there only being space for “one -” this myth, is no longer valid. We get further, together.
What are some of the myths and belief systems in business that women need to dismantle, in order to move progressively forward?
I can’t speak for everyone, but the common theme I hear from the community is, “I’m lucky to have this,” therefore women tolerate low pay, low engagement and being passed over for positions and projects they are more than qualified for. Our intelligence, work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond doesn’t get us privilege – we’ve earned what we’ve worked hard for and sometimes we think we can’t do any better than the positions we currently hold. I acknowledge that there are phenomenal opportunities professionally not given to everyone. Still it’s important to remember our strengths and self-worth and have the courage to pursue our goals.
As a Latina, what are some of the tools you feel women could use to be more empowered in business?
As women, we keep asking for permission, instead of relying on our confidence and expertise. Despite being highly intelligent, and having a strong work ethic we still think we need to have “everything on the list” to embrace an opportunity to “qualify.” Confidence goes a very long way – we can’t shy away from opportunities because we are afraid to fail. We must look at failure in a positive way- an opportunity of growth by being able to re-examine our approach and execute from a new more experienced perspective. I’ve learned my greatest lessons through failure.
What is a personal story about you entering into the business world that would resonate with Latinas today?
I started as an Admin in Corporate – I was dismissed early on because of my gender, ethnicity, background and education. I had to work much harder than most to get acknowledged and recognized. I beat many of the odds because I refused to give up.
I’m one notch away from the highest title at my Corporation, and in my 20 years I’ve been consistently promoted. But I’m not doing this just for me. My children have opportunities that I never had growing up in poverty. I want Latinas to see that despite the challenges, elevation in corporate America is possible. Fight like hell for your dreams – that fight never stops. The essence of life is defining who you want to be, figuring out how to get there, and no matter how hard the fight, staying on course. What makes the fight possible ? Remembering your “why” – understanding why you are there is what keeps you grounded when the fight gets tough.
Can you share with us a favorite childhood dish or memory?
As daughter of Dominican immigrants, sweet plantains were, and still are my favorite dish. I consider myself Dominican American, so I combine sweet plantains, all time with my favorite cheeseburger!
As women and Latinas, we all have our own personal narratives that push us to move progressively forward and create positive change in our lives. Both Catherine Sandoval and Yesenia Morillo-Gual are courageous educated women with purpose, distinct perspective, and unconditional love for their communities. Paving distinguished roads of excellence for generations to follow, they are empowered Latinas!