In 2012, almost 40 percent of the three million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States generating $400 billion annually are led by Latina women. Do these women deserve to have a say in public policy?
Suzanna Sanchez, the new elect Board President of the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA) believes so. She recently sealed a new strategic partnership with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), the national nonpartisan organization that advocates for almost one million women in business and represents 64 business organizations.
“As women, we have a hard time juggling all our roles, as mothers, spouses, professionals and business owners. Organizations such as ours stand behind Latino women in business to help them thrive as leaders. We support policies that would simplify their lives while advancing their economic power,” said Suzanna Sanchez to VOXXI.
Both organizations will collaborate on educational programming, events and activities that provide suitable economic information, identify important business trends, and advance a collaborative model between the private and the public sectors.
WIPP and NLBWA aim at working together in a broad range of current legislation and policies to level the playing field for women-owned businesses, smoothing the progress of federal procurement policies and implementing federal laws that encourage more beneficial tax policies and affordable healthcare for small businesses, among others.
“I just came back from Washington D.C. energized and ready to increase an effort that started three months ago in Los Angeles during the Educational and Community Outreach Initiative, and now has been crystallized in a meeting with Director Graves, who was open to hear our suggestions and concerns as small business owners,” Sanchez said. “We expect some action from the federal government.”
Don Graves, Executive Director of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and the man who advises the President on the nation’s economy and ways to create jobs and opportunities, recently announced a jump in the Treasury’s Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) activity. The fund, created to help small businesses access capital, augmented its lending to small businesses by $5.2 billion in the first quarter of 2012 — an increase of $433 million over the last quarter of 2011.
“But much more needs to be done,” Sanchez asserts. “Fact gathering is important, but we need solutions. We need to increase our representation and participation in economic and business strategies, an area in which women — and especially Latinas — are underrepresented.”
Sanchez battles for increasing free services for NLBWA members such as sharing and simplifying vital information from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for Latinas in business.
“Since I took this position [in NLBWA] we have launched a new website, increased our reach to new strategic partnerships and are planning free webinars that members can use for guidance and to build their own e-library,” Sanchez shared. “After these announcements, our membership has doubled to almost 5000 affiliates.”
Born in Los Angeles from Mexican parents, Sanchez considers herself a new Latina, someone who faced difficulties as a daughter of immigrants but was able to overcome them.
“I can relate to many of my business peers because I am bilingual and bicultural,” said Sanchez. “I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household and faced discrimination at an early age. I understand Latinas because I walked in their shoes and had no mentorship opportunities, something we are trying to change.”
NLBWA strives to become the number one group to advocate for Latinas in business. Their new programs are centered on trends in technology and science, emerging energy, and broadband and wireless communication.
“Women usually consider a wider scope of factors when it comes to making decisions about their lives or their businesses, as they play many different roles,” Sanchez asserts. “Developing true leadership implies a full engagement, emotional as well as professional. Women in our membership travel many miles to invest in their future and attend our activities. They want to handle their lives more proactively.”