Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bravo, Nordstrom!

...And I'm not just referring to yesterday's Fall Fashion Show.

When it seems most companies are pulling back on sponsorships and special events, Nordstrom steps up to the plate and more. I read an editorial in The Seattle Times the other day that hailed the retailer for stepping up and taking over a sponsorship when another company backed down.

And of course there's the annual Latina Empowerment Summit, what appears to be a venture between Nordstrom and local iconic leader Dr. Sandra Madrid. In past years, an employee or intern of mine would attend the event, meant for Latinas. This year, I sent myself.

I am so glad I finally had an opportunity to see what the fuss is all about! It's a half-day of inspiration, of laughter, of sharing. Truly empowering, even for this gringa.

The day was kicked off with Nordstrom staff (Go, Amelia!) and Dr. Madrid who is always so warm and welcoming; then Marisa Rivera-Albert took over. She is the president of MPowerment Works and previously served as president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute. This woman is the BOMB--she has amazing energy and just makes you feel GOOD.

And she offered up some cool figures to show us just how important women are to U.S. marketers:
  • Women are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases in the U.S.
  • Women own 70% of small businesses.
She also talked about Latinas specifically:
  • Latinas are the fastest-growing segment among small business.
  • Among Latinos, women have 62% of the purchasing power.
Marisa made a good point when she said that "opportunity + preparation = success." An easy formula for success. She said the two things we all need to thrive are 1) a mentor and 2) allies.

After Marisa lifted us with her candor and passion, we had the pleasure of hearing from a panel of women who were each so different from each other.

Blanca Santander
An artist and communicator, Blanca celebrated the achievement of getting a tote bag featuring her beautiful work distributed throughout U.S. Barnes & Noble stores. Hurrah! I urge you to seek out this piece and buy it. I think she said it was just $10, but the art is priceless--very magical.

Blanca urged Summit attendees to "Follow your heart, no matter how difficult," explaining that doors were going to open if we follow our passion. She talked about how hard it is to be a successful female artist, and that being Latina makes it that much more difficult.

The Rt. Reverend Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera
Bishop Rivera was a hoot! She had a wonderful, calming presence, but her humor was fantastic. She is the first and only Latina bishop (and one of only 27 women, of thousands of bishops). She's the 12th female bishop in the Episcopal Church. So she's clearly a pioneer. Oh and she had a role model: Her father was the first U.S. Hispanic bishop in the Episcopal Church.

She shared a telling story about discrimination: That when she lived in Northern California, a neighbor was trying to keep Latinos out, mentioning that he/she didn't "want those people moving in." Nedi replied, "You should know, then, that about 60% of your current neighbors are 'those people' and that I am also 'those people.'"

She explained that every time she's been in transition, she's been open to a greater number of choices. Her mission? "To help people. We're here to serve one another."

Sonia Rodriguez
Sonia is a current council member of the Yakima City Council, and is running for re-election. Sounds easy, considering she's the only Latina/o candidate (and the only Latina/o currently serving). But it's not. Despite the fact that Yakima has a Hispanic population density of 40%, there still exists a lot of discrimination there. Many there fear that the Latinos will "take over" if they amass power, shared Sonia.

Her advice for success? "Always take risks. Don't stay in your comfort zones."

And she said something else that she finds to be a misconception about Latinos. "They think I can represent the entire Latino community," but, she warned, "You can't group us all together." As for Sonia, she's a young mother and attorney--and leads the largest firm in Yakima.

By the way, a bag was passed as the speakers talked, and it filled with checks and cash for the Committee to Re-Elect Sonia Rodriguez. Sonia's platform focuses on the gang problem, public safety, economic development, and control of the budget. If you'd like to contribute, here's the address:

Committee to Re-Elect Sonia Rodriguez
P.O. Box 768
Yakima WA 98907

Sometime during the morning's events, they asked who had been to previous Latina Empower Summits, and many of those in attendance had--and one had been there for every single event.

There was something else I just have to relate: Mother-and-daugher pairings were asked to stand and be introduced, and there were at least 10 of those pairings--including one representing not two but *three* generations! (Which reminded me of a photo The P-I took of my grandmother, my mom, my little sister and I--in matching dresses--in front of the Women's University Club, back in the day.) It was pretty neat.

Other cool stuff happened, such as the "Cosmetics Presentation," which I frankly dreaded would be a hard sell. It wasn't. It was just some cool Nordstrom employees representing different brands and products, willing to show us how the products work and also willing to give some of it away. Women were asking questions about their particular skin types and situations, and were very engaged. So in the end that was a very positive part of the program.

Fun stuff was given out all day (I was not one of the lucky ones)--mostly from Nordstrom (including a coveted pedicure at the Nordstrom Spa). Also - It was really cool of SAM to offer up free passes to the museum for us all, and Capitol Hill's Barrio to give us all gift cards!

Beautiful event. I will continue to encourage my Latina friends to attend. And now I know why, first-hand.

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