SAN FRANCISCO – Dominican psychologist Angelica Perez-Litwin will meet 300 Hispanic women at Google headquarters in October in a conference that seeks to break down stereotypes about Latin women and invites them to “think big.”
Perez-Litwin is the creator of Latinas Think Big, a platform that seeks to create networks of influence for Hispanics in the United States and go beyond the image of the sexy woman who can’t speak English well, which is how they are generally shown by the media.
“One of the things that happens to Latin women in this country is that they don’t have networks of influence,” the New York-born psychologist said in an interview with Efe, and added that the event at Google will contribute to changing that situation.
The conference is set for Oct. 3 and will be attended by Hispanic women such as Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Frances Colon, Science and Technology Adviser and Eliana Murillo, head of multicultural marketing at Google.
They will be joined by entrepreneurs, executives, university professors and artists.
“We want to raise the conversation, change the rhetoric and the way in which most Americans see Hispanic women, but also the way in which Latin women see themselves,” Perez-Litwin explained.
In that sense, she said, celebrities such as Sofia Vergara help to perpetuate the prevailing image of Latin women.
“If Sofia Vergara’s image was balanced with strong, positive images on TV, there would be no problem, because diversity is important, but that is not the case, because there aren’t any more Latin women on television as powerful as her,” the New Yorker said.
“I think that when the emphasis is on some aspects of our image as women and normally, and constantly, it tends to be the sexual aspect, accent, the erotic aspect, that is a problem,” Perez-Litwin elaborated, stressing the need to “expand” that image because “not all Hispanic women are like that.”
According to the founder of Latinas Think Big, the socialization of girls very often limits them.
“We are not used to negotiate, to be asking for more. We are satisfied very quickly,” she said, joking that when one of her daughters told her that she wanted to be doctor, she responded saying “that’s great, but I want you to become the owner of the hospital.”
Such comments are no more than an invitation to think big, she added.
Perez-Litwin also emphasized that it was important for young people to have mentors who encourage them to excel and for them to be surrounded by strong women who serve as example or inspiration.
Curiously, it was a man who taught Perez-Litwin to think big: her father.
“I grew up with a man for whom nothing was impossible,” the psychologist explained, revealing that her parents were immigrants from the Dominican Republic who did not allow her or her two siblings to help with household chores so they could concentrate on their studies.
“Don’t do what I did (leave school). Please be professionals,” is what her father used to tell her ever since she was a little girl.
“I grew up thinking that all I did had to be the best,” recalled Perez-Litwin, who studied at Columbia and Harvard University.
The women in the New York neighborhood of her childhood, Washington Heights, inspired her to fight for women’s rights, because they were people with little power, victims of male chauvinism.
“What I want is for the Latin woman, in the United States as well as in our countries, to have options and if she wants to be a mother, fine, but if she wants to be a senior executive in a company, that she can do that too,” Perez-Litwin declared.
Her dream, she said, is to bring together 100,000 Hispanic women professionals and organize a march in the U.S. capital to express their desire “to be better represented in universities, as professors, business women, in hospitals.”