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Prospanica Milwaukee hosts 4th annual Latinas event in Madison to foster professional growth, community

Amanda Moran speaks with Kren Soraya Burch in the background at the 4th annual Latina event April 13. (Photo by Omar Waheed)

Prospanica Milwaukee hosted its annual Latinas event this past weekend where attendees got the chance to hear from speakers on the importance of fostering community.

On Saturday, April 13, Prospanica Milwaukee, a branch of the nationwide organization that advocates for the advancement of Hispanic professionals, held its fourth annual event in Wisconsin. The event, titled “Discover the Power of Community Over Competition,” was the first time Prospanica came to Madison where it opened the floor to Latina professionals on how to overcome boundaries in their careers.

The event featured welcoming remarks from Montse Ricossa, bilingual news anchor and senior producer at Telemundo Wisconsin, and Justin Cruz, associate vice president of auto production development with American Family Insurance. A keynote address came from Merary Simeón, founder of Zera Consulting and “What Rules?!” podcast.

The theme from the event centered around building community. Simeón in her keynote address pointed out the tendency of competitiveness between Latina women and the strive to do great things as “ingrained in us,” but thinks it’s time to throw that away.

“When it comes to community it’s time that we reach out to each other and help each other,” Simeón said. “From the pain, the wisdom and fear can come courage. from suffering can come strength. If we have to, we will be resilient. Every single one of you is hardwired with that power.”

Towards the end of the event, three panelists gave insights into navigating careers as Latina women.

Fitchburg Mayor Juila Arata-Fratta
(Photo by Omar Waheed)


Panelists included Amanda Moran, a current MBA candidate at the Wisconsin School of Business and hospitality professional; Andrea Contreras, associate community and social impact partner at American Family Insurance; and Karen Soraya Burch, a United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant veteran and vice president of community engagement and marketing at United Way of Dane County.

The three, with different career fields, all have one thing in common — battling the sense of competition as a Latina in their industries and striving to replace it with community.

“I think one of the things that we see oftentimes is that we have this scarcity mentality, that there’s only a certain amount of spaces,” Contreras said. “Older generations, they’ve worked their way, they’ve done the hurdles and they’ve had to play the game. When the time comes, our newer generations coming in, and we’re excited, we’re eager, we’re a little bit more outspoken about the level of entry that we expected, come off as entitled.”

Contreras pointed to previous generations and feeling like younger entrants are gatekept or seen as not having to go through the same hardships to enter the same fields. She notes that while it’s possible that younger workers didn’t have to go through the same hurdles, they are still going through their own unique struggles. Contreras emphasizes that there is space for everyone. Other panelists agreed on the sentiment and the historical issue of competition between each other can be healthy — at least being competitive with yourself.

“There’s that balance of where competition can light spirit in you to accomplish your best version of yourself. And there’s a competition that we can experience that is achy, and we just can’t believe that someone is doing that to us,” Burch said.

Burch went on to share a story of her mother in Florida to reinforce her sentiment. Her mother, Rosario Bertrand, owned two beauty salons where Burch worked in the family business when she was younger. She recalled seeing other salons go up in the community and pointed out the competition sprouting up.

Bertrand would tell Burch “We’re a community. There’s plenty for everyone. It’s not a competition with them, it’s a competition within yourself.”

Other topics included imposter syndrome, defined as the inability to believe that your own success is deserved or legitimately achieved through your own efforts, and navigating that both academically and professionally.

Panelist Moran noted the lack of Latinos in her MBA program with her being only one of two in it. She feels a weight of feeling like she has to represent the entire Latino community. She encouraged attendees to step back and recognize the hard work they’ve done to reach their accomplishments.

The point of building community came into praxis as attendees were encouraged to stand in front of everyone with an ask. Attendees’ asks looked for things from internships for their children, friends to go salsa dancing with, work for themselves and expanding opportunities in their jobs.

“We have a huge opportunity to bring us together. We have great power. You wield it, it’s up to you,” Simeón said. “Let’s start today by doing that.”

Awards for continued work in leadership were presented to Fitchburg Mayor Julia Arata-Fratta and La Movida co-owner Lupita Montoto along with an award for Bertrand, who was not in attendance but had her award accepted on behalf of her granddaughter.