Fierce Boss Ladies

The First Latina Immigrant To Make The Fortune 500 List Is Sharing Some Serious Career Advice

Geisha Williams was only 5 years old when her family was finally allowed to leave Cuba and move to the U.S. Now, 50 years later, Williams is the first Latina CEO to be included in the Fortune 500 list as the CEO of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Williams has risen through the ranks with hard work and determination and spends her time traveling around the country from panel to panel to give young Latinas advice on how to make it big in their own careers.

Geisha Williams is the first Latina CEO on the Fortune 500 list and she doesn’t want to be the last.

“You always hear people talking about what it means to be the first,” Williams wrote for TIME Magazine. “But I think it’s important that we focus on making sure there are others. While I may be the first, I certainly don’t want to be the last. I would encourage young women to go for the tough jobs.”

The way Williams suggests women, particularly Latinas, rise in their industry is to just go for it by putting in the hard work.

@RandallMartine6 / Twitter

“The confidence you’re going to develop as a result of doing a good job in those difficult positions is the confidence that you’ll take with you to the next job and the one after that,” Williams wrote for TIME Magazine. “It’s like a muscle you develop where you start believing in yourself and your ability to do just about anything.”

And Williams knows what it means to put in the hard work.

@RandallMartine6 / Twitter

According to Fortune Magazine, Williams got involved with engineering because of a high school math teacher who encouraged her to follow her passion. One summer while studying engineering at the University of Miami, Williams saw an advertisement for an engineering job and she made a call and was hired for the job. The job happened to be a marketing service representative position for Florida Power & Light.

“I would get home at the end of the day and be all sweaty and have fiberglass in my hair, and my mom would ask, ‘Why are you a technician?'” Williams told Fortune Magazine. “But I loved it.”

It is also important to realize that your own work ethic will dictate what people think of you.

“I know that there were times when people felt that maybe I didn’t belong there. And they might say something to make me feel uncomfortable. But I didn’t let them bully me,” Williams wrote in TIME Magazine about her own path through the engineering industry. “I just took it in and decided to respond very professionally and respectfully. I just thought, I’m going to do what’s right, I’m going to serve my customers, I’m going to work harder, and I’m going to overcome any adversity. I think I developed a certain level of confidence that I could do anything.”

Williams wants her own immigrant experience to encourage other young Latinas and immigrants to follow their dreams.

“I feel incredibly honored and really humbled that my story is resonating with so many people that are foreign-born, that are immigrants like me where English is their second language,” the PG&E CEO told Voice Of America News. “My message to them is, anything’s possible in this country.”

She is a firm believer the immigrants are America’s secret weapon and vitalize the country.

During Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit 2017, Williams spoke about the importance of continuing to be a country that accepts immigrants as they make their way to the United States because of the importance of their presence to the U.S. economy. That same sentiment is extended to the recent debate about DACA and undocumented youths living in the U.S.

“I understand that there are national security concerns but we also must find a way of continuing to have immigration be the lifeblood of this country. Immigrants bring creativity, innovation, hard work, and perseverance,” Williams said at the conference. “Why in the world wouldn’t we want to continue to have that? So, I believe firmly that there’s a way and we’ve got to have that mindset of figuring it out. There’s got to be a way to make it happen.”

Most importantly, Williams wants all women to remember her motto, “If someone else can do it, why not you?”

Congratulations, Geisha.


READ: This Chicana Feminist Writer Who Wrote Groundbreaking Material Was Just Honored In A Google Doodle

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These Are The Latinas Who Held It Down For The Cultura In 2017

Fierce Boss Ladies

These Are The Latinas Who Held It Down For The Cultura In 2017

What a challenging, yet exciting, year it has been for women. In 2017, mujeres fueled the resistance, starting with the history-making Women’s March on Washington and closing with the TIME “Person of the Year”-winning the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. We also broke hella barriers, from Danica Roem becoming the first openly transgender member of the Virginia House of Delegates to female-centered films and TV shows thriving massively. Latinas in particular held it down this year, whether in the boardroom, the political table, the movement or the charts.

Ahead, some of the Latinas who put in work that pushed the cultura forward.

1. Carmen Yulín Cruz

When Hurricane Maria’s powerful winds plowed into Puerto Rico this summer, it left one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history in its wake. Many parts of the island still remain without power or water, and people are still dying because of it. As President Donald Trump, who blamed islanders for the crises and callously threw paper towels at those in need, failed miserably in his recovery efforts, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called him out, challenging him and the U.S. government and becoming a key figure in the fight for relief for Puerto Rico.

2. Cardi B

Bronx meets Billboard !!!

A post shared by Cardi B Official IG (@iamcardib) on

No one had a better year than Cardi B. The Dominican-Trinidadian rapper, reality TV star and social media personality had the greatest glow up, got engaged and broke records. Her single “Bodak Yellow” dominated the charts for three weeks, making her breakout single the longest-running No. 1 by a solo woman rapper ever.

3. Carmen Perez

At the top of the year, Carmen Perez, along with organizers Tamika D Mallory and Linda Sarsour, put together the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, which blossomed into an independent organization. The Chicana, a long-time organizer, became a leader in the resistance against Trump and inspired hundreds of thousands of women to become politically engaged.

4. Miss Peru Beauty Pageant Contestants

“Minhas medidas são: 2.202 casos de feminicídio nos últimos nove anos no meu país”, disse uma das concorrentes no microfone antes de se retirar para o outro lado da passarela. “Minhas medidas são: 81% dos agressores de meninas menores de cinco anos são pessoas próximas da família”, disse a candidata seguinte. A iniciativa não foi apenas das concorrentes, mas fazia parte da organização oficial do evento. Pouco depois, quando desfilaram em trajes de banho e enquanto a cantora peruana Leslie Shaw interpretou a canção Siempre más Fuerte, as telas do fundo mostravam manchetes de jornais locais com notícias sobre violência contra mulheres. @elpaisbrasil @el_pais #missperu #miss2017 #MisMedidasSon #violenciacontramulher

A post shared by Advogadas Igualdade GêneroRaça (@advogadaspelaigualdade) on

Contestants of this year’s Miss Peru pageant got all of our support. That’s because the women, who would have normally been tasked with revealing their body measurements, took their opportunity in the spotlight to instead share devastating statistics of sexual abuse and harassment in their country. The moment, as can be expected, dominated the Internet, with #MisMedidasSon (“my measurements are”) quickly trending on social media.

5, 6. Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala Campaigns

In the conservative state of Virginia, two progressive Latina politicos broke barriers. In November, Elizabeth Guzman, an immigrant from Peru, and Hala Ayala, the daughter of a Salvadoran immigrant, became the first-ever Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, with both women beating incumbent Republican representatives.

7. Francia Raísa

Hermanas ❤️

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Francia Raísa had garnered our attention as an actress in “Bring It On: All or Nothing” and “The Secret Life of The American Teenager,” but the Honduran-mexicana captured all of our hearts this year when she gave her best pal Selena Gomez her kidney. Gomez called the donation “the ultimate gift” and has stated that Raísa saved her life. Raísa, who will star in the upcoming Freeform show “Grown-ish,” has earned the title of Greatest Friend Ever.

8. Geisha Williams

In March, cubana Geisha Williams took over electric utility company PG&E, becoming the first-ever Latina to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The 56-year-old, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1962, was one of just two women of color to make the list this year.

9. America Chavez

In 2017, Marvel’s America Chavez received her own solo comic series, becoming the first Latina superhero to have one. But that’s not the only reason why she’s so important. America is also a queer, college student who is fighting evil villains while still making time for her friends. Name us a cooler superhero! While there are rumors of the comic’s cancellation, the series, and the queer Puerto Rican writer behind it, Gabby Rivera, gifted us with a multidimensional heroine we could see ourselves in and be proud and excited of.

READ: 9 Latina Organizations To Donate To This Holiday Season

Let us know which other Latina superstars of 2017 you think should be added to this list in the comments!

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She Is A Peruvian Immigrant And One Of The New Women Running Things In Government. Meet Elizabeth Guzman

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She Is A Peruvian Immigrant And One Of The New Women Running Things In Government. Meet Elizabeth Guzman

Elizabeth Guzman made history this month when she became one of two Latinas to ever be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. She is joined by Hala Ayala in breaking that glass ceiling in Virginia, and she did it for all the right reasons. The Peruvian immigrant successfully unseated Scott Lingamfelter, a Republican who had been the delegate representing Virginia’s 31st district since 2002 and championed anti-immigrant legislation. Guzman spoke with FIERCE about why she joined politics and what pushed her to keep going.

The results of the 2016 election had a very powerful impact on Virginia Delegate-elect Elizabeth Guzman and her family.

She recalls a moment after President Trump’s electoral win when her 9-year-old son told her their family needs to flee the country because they spoke Spanish. That pushed her to run for office, and kept her going throughout her campaign.

“I knew I had to stay in this race more than ever. I need to fight for my children,” Guzman says. “I need to fight for the children who look like them because they’re American.”

The fear felt by her children and community motivated her to fight for her place at the table.

Elizabeth Guzman for Delegate / Facebook

Guzman first got the urge to go into politics during her time as a Bernie Sanders delegate.

“One of the things that he said when he did his concession speech was that we need to continue the revolution,” Guzman recalls.

This assured her that no election, be it at a state or local level, could ever go uncontested again.

“We need to fight for every single seat so we can make a difference,” she says.

It wasn’t uncommon for the delegate-elect to hear derogatory language about immigrants from leaders in her county and home state.

Those words along with President Trump’s claims that immigrants bring in violence and drugs and undermine American workers, and the anti-immigrant voting record of her opponent Scott Lingamfelter, spurred her to take action. Guzman became determined to change the narrative.

The delegate-elect wants Latinas to know that their voice is more important than ever.

For her, the historic victories of women from marginalized communities around the country is proof that more women need to engage with their elected officials directly. Latinos and Latinas need to speak for themselves on the issues that affect them.

“I think it’s important because our role is to explain to elected officials and legislators what our values are as Latinas,” Guzman says. “Elected officials and legislators should hear from Latinos and not some third party people who are not immigrants. They just don’t know the experience so they need to hear from us.”

One of Guzman’s key objectives is ensuring the representation of the diverse communities and cultures that make up the state of Virginia.

Elizabeth Guzman for Delegate / Facebook

When the newly elected delegates in Virginia head to work in January, Guzman’s expects deeper, more inclusive conversations that reflect that diversity of individuals elected to office as well as the state as a whole. She believes this crop of delegates, with their different professions, class backgrounds and ethnicities, will bring productive legislation that positively impacts all Virginians. Guzman hopes to work amongst individuals who got into politics in order to make a real difference, as opposed to gain power within the rat race.

To the women concerned by the state of politics right now, Guzman’s message is to keep up the good fight, raise their voice and work to create the change they believe the world needs.

Elizabeth Guzman for Delegate / Facebook

“Women are multifaceted by nature,” she says. “We can do anything we want when we do things that we are passionate about.”


READ: Everyone Is Still Talking About The 13 Women Who Made History In Last Week’s Election, Including The Three Latinas

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