Influential Women in Our Community

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By: Melissa Onate

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are recognizing some Latinas who have helped build our community and are making a difference in the world. From supreme court justices, astronauts, to stay-at-home moms, we celebrate influential women and the important contributions women have made and continue to make.

  • Sonia Sotomayor is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as a judge in the U.S. Federal Court. She was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2009, becoming the first Latina member of the court and only the third woman in the court’s 228year history. During her time on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has identified with concern for defendants’ rights, calls for reform of the criminal justice system, and dissents on issues of race, gender, and ethnic identity.
  • Joseline Peña-Melnyk is a Dominican-American elected official representing District 21 in the Maryland House of Delegates. She is also a founding member of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus and served as its first Chairperson. Additionally, Peña-Melnyk collaborated on different projects to ensure  the Latino voice was heard and made part of important decisions in the United States.
  • Angela Franco is the current President and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, the first Latina to hold that post! She has also been the Senior Advisor for Business Development at the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority where she was in charge of working with the Hispanic and Business communities, as well as the local and Federal Governments. Angela has also promoted business to business networking and has built a bridge of connections between the DC area and Latin America.
  • Claudia Campos is an MHS Clinical Psychologist and Sexologist. She immigrated from Colombia to the United States and has since worked endlessly to help the quality of life of Latinas in the U.S. She has been recognized for her efforts to defend the rights of immigrant women as well as empowering the Latino community. Campos is the first Latina that has openly addressed issues regarding human sexuality in the DMV area.

This year’s National Women History Alliance designated the 2021 theme to be a continuation of “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced” and aims to recognize the combat for women’s suffrage which was gained in 1920. With the momentous election of Kamala Harris as Vice-President we continue to shatter the glass ceiling and set new paths.  Trailblazing is the common denominator for not just these featured women, but all women.

We know women bear the burden of running a household, child-care and in many instances also provide financially for their families—and with this pandemic the burden has become overwhelming with studies indicating that women are leaving the workforce at 4x the rate of men.

In essence, we take one step forward and several steps back.  This is our time to consistently address these inequities, especially since we are not seeing much progress in pay equity (Latinas are still earning 55 cents to every dollar earned by non-Hispanic male) and corporate board representation.

For us, Women’s History Month is acknowledged everyday of the year, not just during March.  So, let’s keep trailblazing, let’s keep asking for what we are worth, let’s keep speaking out, let’s keep on breaking glass-ceilings.


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