Punto Final: Latinas Adelante! Moving Beyond Diversity, Embracing Inclusion in the Fight for Equity

Linda Urrutia-Varhall is the first Latina to achieve the rank of Major General in the United States Air Force. She recently retired after approximately 35 years of service.

By Linda Urrutia-Varhall, U.S. Air Force (Ret) and Dr. Cynthia Baron

As Latinas, many of us face the concept of diversity. In both the civilian and military world, there are offices and personnel dedicated to ensuring diversity as it relates to numbers and representation. But is diversity the true end game to ensure the military, corporations, organizations, and institutions reflect society?

To many, the definition of diversity means different genders and racial/ethnic identities are all in the same room. However, just to place diverse personnel in the same room is simply not enough. For Latinas in particular, once in the room, we must strive to have a voice and power in that room… in other words, fight for inclusion. But the fight for diversity and inclusion does not stop there… along with having a voice we should walk away from the room knowing we all have a fair and equal opportunity to succeed in that particular space.

To be able to succeed, we do need to put some things in place. We should ensure we have “champions” established at all supervisory levels. Many times, this is focused at only the higher levels. Where we really need champions is at the mid-range level. It is often at the mid-range/mid-level where Latinas feel they must decide between a career and family and the majority of the time the choice is family. However, if mid-level champions are in place perhaps Latina up and coming leaders would make career choices based on the mentoring and supportive work environment invested in their success.

Additionally, Latinas should embrace being comfortable being uncomfortable. In fact, that little discomfort means you are

Dr. Cynthia Baron is a social worker and scholar-practitioner with 17+ years of experience in private and public higher education administration. She currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Equity and Student Engagement at the Metropolitan State University of Denver (the largest Hispanic Serving Institution in Colorado).

moving forward and exploring new territory. In our view, these experiences help us start to feel confident about having a “voice in the room and honing our power” and presents opportunities for career growth.

We must move beyond the early 2000’s rhetoric of diversity and we must remain true to who we are. In no setting should we ever apologize for being a woman or Latina, we must keep the beautiful resilient characteristics of our culture alive. Most importantly, family will always be our number one value. Family values often driven by the sacrifice of those who came before us are the one constant source of strength throughout our lives. No matter what career we choose our family has been with us through it all…both good and bad. This is why in today’s world employers must recruit the Latina family and not just individuals. A Latina does not forsake her family when she joins the military/corporations /organizations…in fact, she brings the family along on her journey and forges the path for others to follow. We believe this understanding may often be lost on employers and it often forces the Latina to choose between the two. Perhaps, if the employer recruited the family from the onset it could be more widely understood.

We still have a long road to equity in today’s workforce/society, especially in the senior ranks of our military. The above may not be the answers in total, but perhaps offer a different perspective as it relates to moving beyond diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

1 Comment
  • Charles Orlando DeHerrera

    This is a beautiful an poignant example of the foundation that we must provide for our students. Too often, Latinx folk feel the tension of entering spaces that were not created for us, and staying true to our communities. Dr. Baron makes it clear that Latinx folk (and more specifically Latinas) can exist in both spaces without sacrificing their integrity or commitment to equity. This piece warmed my heart.

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