Recently I attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) 2019 Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, September 10-11, 2019. Composed of Congressional representatives of Latino heritage and led by Joaquin Castro (D-TX), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) advocates for issues important to Latinos through the Congressional legislative process. Led by Marco Davis, President and CEO, the CHCI is the nonprofit arm of the CHC and provides educational and leadership development programs and opportunities for emerging Latino leaders. This year the theme of the conference was “You Count! ¡Tu Cuentas!”
Full of valuable content, the conference held a host of impactful sessions on numerous topics. Featuring Congressional representatives as well as leaders and professionals from various careers and industries, the conference provided emerging Latino leaders the opportunity to learn from and connect with distinguished influencers. Because education, exposure and access is key to leadership development, the CHCI Leadership Conference plays a key role in nurturing, empowering and advancing Latino leadership.
Below are my personal highlights from the conference.
Luncheon Plenary – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity in the Workplace
My niece and I particularly enjoyed this panel discussion. It was a pleasure to see and hear women of color in various industries speak candidly about their professional trajectory and experiences. They provided valuable advice on various topics such as professional advancement, leadership opportunities, mentorship, salary negotiation, and identity and intersectionality in the workplace.
Women of color must lean in and engage in the negotiation process.
The conversation on employment/salary negotiation was especially interesting. Using a case example, one of the panelists demonstrated the difference between how men and women approach the employment and negotiation process. Men enter with a different set of plans, tools, and expectations, which manifest into different results. These results perpetuate disparities between men and women as well as between white people and people of color in the workplace. The panelist urged women of color to lean in and engage in the negotiation process. She also urged employers to commit to more equitable hiring/salary practices, arguing that the onus of equitable salaries and opportunities should not be on the onus of the individual and her ability or willingness to engage in negotiation.
Arts and Culture Reception
Launching the celebration of Latino Heritage Month, the CHCI hosted an Arts and Culture reception during the opening day of the conference. With Mishel Prada of Starz television series “Vida” serving as the emcee, the reception paid tribute to various Latino artists and cultural organizations and their contributions to Latino arts and culture. Among the honorees were the Smithsonian Latino Center and its director Eduardo Diaz, for their commitment and work in exploring, preserving and promoting the contributions of Latinos within the Smithsonian.
As the program speakers explained, arts and culture are essential to community empowerment. Arts and culture not only reflect community, society and politics, but influence them, shaping attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. This is why it is so important that Latinos engage in the arts and popular culture—to influence the narrative of who Latinos are and have been to the development of the United States. Additionally, through arts and culture, communities exhibit and express their history, heritage, and identity. In fact, it is through arts and culture that communities affirm and celebrate themselves, their experiences and who they are. Considering the vital role that arts and culture play in our society, it is indeed significant and noteworthy that CHCI incorporated a celebration of Latino arts and culture into the conference proceedings.
Session – Corporate Social Responsibility: Corporate Ethics, A New Era
As a social responsibility strategist that helps socially conscious businesses as well as athletes and entertainers to impact their communities, this was indeed my favorite session of the entire conference. This session piqued my interest as well as inspired my work. In this session representatives from various fortune 500 companies discussed the purpose and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Philanthropy is not enough.
As the panelists explained, Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as a company’s effort to improve society by making a positive impact on social, economic and environmental issues. According to the speakers, CSR is an integral strategy for many corporations. CSR empowers companies to fill both a business need and a social need, making CSR good for business and good for the community. CSR, therefore, is essential to the viability and sustainability of corporations as well as to the communities they serve. What stood out to me the most in this discussion is the statement, “Philanthropy is not enough.” Corporations must be engaged! Corporations must use their power and influence to engage in issues in order to advance the social good.
As always, I enjoyed the CHCI Leadership Conference. By providing professional and leadership development opportunities for Latinos, it ensures that America will continue to produce powerful and Purposeful Latino leaders. Of course, it is an honor to be connected with such an impactful organization.
An American historian specializing in African American and Mexican American history and relations, Ramona Houston, PhD, PMP, promotes multi-racial/ethnic coalitions to advance racial equity and social justice. As Principal of Kaliráh Strategies, Ramona helps businesses, who embrace social responsibility, to impact their communities in meaningful ways by managing and executing their philanthropic visions. Contact Dr. Houston to learn how she may support you or your organization.