Latina Leaders Launch National Initiative to Shatter Stereotypes About Hispanics
CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — To commemorate and amplify the countless contributions of Hispanic women, two Charlotte, North Carolina residents, Deborah Aguiar-Velez and Raquel Velez, launched Escuchame.org. The nationally recognized Latina engineers and mother and daughter team created Escuchame (Spanish for “Listen up!”) as an effort to organize, showcase, and promote Latinas as experts at the national and international levels. The site is fully bilingual in English and Spanish.
With approximately 8 million Hispanic women in the labor force impacting all sectors of the U.S. economy, Latinas are playing historical roles and breaking significant barriers. They are starting businesses at a record pace, rising to key leadership positions, and helping communities flourish across the nation. In addition, Latinas are key consumer decision makers and wage earners in the Hispanic community, which has a projected buying power of approximately $1.3 trillion by 2015.
“This venture comes at a pivotal time when more Latinas are discovering and embracing their voice and influence. Our mission is to change the negative stereotypes about Hispanics, and there is no better way to do that than by showcasing successful, knowledgeable women who are positively contributing to this nation,” said Co-founder and Chief Executive Producer Deborah Aguiar-Velez. “We are in the midst of a Latina Renaissance. We are proud to launch Escuchame.org with Smart Latinas who represent professional diversity and a lot of talent,” added Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Raquel Velez.
Escuchame.org is debuting with top Latinas from across the country, including Cristina Cassidy, Producer and Documentary Filmmaker from North Carolina, and Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Rutgers University Distinguished Professor and LEAP Academy University Charter School Founder from New Jersey.
The inspiration for Escuchame.org came in 2009 during Aguiar-Velez’s first training week at the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) Executive Leadership Program. As part of the award-winning and highly competitive leadership training course, each fellow designs a leadership project to impact their communities. Escuchame.org is Aguiar-Velez’s leadership project.
Interested participants can easily join the Escuchame community as Community Members for free, or apply to be a Featured Expert for a nominal fee through the site. Community Members receive unlimited access to videos, articles, and Featured Experts. The Escuchame.org community helps Latinas build their brand, share their knowledge, and profit from their expertise.
Deborah Aguiar-Velez has a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico. She has been president and CEO of Sistemas Corporation, an engineering firm, since 1983. In addition to serving on a corporate board in the financial industry, Aguiar-Velez is the 2011 Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Woman of Distinction. She travels across the country to speak on a variety of topics including entrepreneurship and financial independence. She has spoken at a variety of institutions, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Smith College, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Raquel Velez graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2007, where she was the recipient of the prestigious Mabel Beckman Prize. She is a technology expert, with 8 years of experience as a robotics engineer in the United States, Germany, and Italy. Velez speaks five languages and has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.