A strange heading, we know.  But given that recent census and business statistics show that Latinas are opening businesses at six times the national rate, combined with the fact that they fail at a higher rate than other groups’ businesses, we at The Nat’l Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce see it as our mission to help ensure their success.

In order to ensure their success, we need to ensure their health.  Right now Breast Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death according to the American Cancer Society.  For this reason, we see ours as a dual mission:  protect our people AND help them develop and grow successful businesses.  That is why we kicked off our campaign to donate to Breast Cancer Research and Awareness.  For a limited time we are donating $1 for every “like” on Facebook.

In addition, we are offering FREE 1-year memberships to all who help support this cause.  Just send us an email: Membership@NPRChamber.org, or attach your name and email on our Facebook page.

Stay tuned for updates on how we are going to help our businesses grow, so that we can help our communities prosper, which will help our families stay together, and, in turn will allow us all to live happier and healthier lives . . . Help us, help each other.

Read the articles below for more information:

The Sun

Jeffrey Weitzel, director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics at City of Hope in Duarte, received a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the American Cancer Society to evaluate whether culturally sensitive outreach and education can improve participation in genetic counseling for cancer risk among Latinas. Weitzel leads the study, in collaboration with Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for Latinas in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Weitzel’s genetic epidemiologic research has shown that certain mutations in the BRCA genes are prevalent among immigrant Latinas – women of Latin American and/or Spanish descent – with breast or ovarian cancer, similar to the frequency of mutations in Ashkenazi Jewish women. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors, and mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic risk assessment can determine if a woman has these mutations and is at increased risk for developing these cancers.

“We are seeing a greater proportion of Latina women diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer compared to white women, but when genetic cancer risk assessments are made available, we see less than half of Latinas show for their initial appointment,” said Weitzel.

Through genetic counseling, women learn about their heredity and personal cancer

risk factors and receive support from professionals on how to manage that risk, such as preventive surgery, medications or more frequent screenings.In previous work funded by the Komen Foundation for the Cure, Weitzel and his colleagues looked at a wide variety of factors that influence whether Latinas participate in genetic cancer risk counseling services and then follow up by getting screenings and take steps to reduce their risk. While the Latinas who received counseling then took appropriate action, Weitzel’s team found that many women passed up the potentially lifesaving consultation.

The team’s studies have shown that women find the waiting time before a genetic cancer risk assessment to be the most stressful, which might dissuade women from their first appointment. They tested whether a technique called adapted motivational interviewing in which women scheduled for genetic screening are contacted and counseled by phone in advance of their appointment could improve attendance at screenings.

“We found that 88 percent of patients who received the phone call attended their screening appointment,” said Weitzel.

Based on the findings, Weitzel and his colleagues will expand the concept and use the American Cancer Society grant to evaluate whether a phone intervention that is culturally appropriate can improve appointment adherence, prescreening anxiety and cancer genetics knowledge.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 207,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and nearly 40,000 will die from the disease.

Latinas becoming small business owners at a higher rate

by the Orlando Sentinel

Nov. 01–It’s 3 p.m. and Irela Bague is at a business meeting at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables with two of the partners in her multilingual marketing services firm. Polished and energetic, she’s bantering with her colleagues as they prepare for a meet-and-greet with members of the Latin American Business Association.

Cool as she may seem, Bague knows the clock is ticking: Time to shift gears from entrepreneur to mom and drive through traffic to Kendall to pick up her 10-year-old son Alberto from school. Then she drives across town to Biscayne Boulevard and 50th Street to drop off Alberto with her ex-husband before returning to the Biltmore meeting. Her day ends close to 10 p.m. at yet another meeting at a restaurant to plan a fundraiser.

“My days are schizophrenic, but I’m a single mom and I own my own company and I’m the chair of a large charity in our community — the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida — and my days go from one thing to another,” says the 42-year-old head of Bague Group.

The Cuban American’s high-charged entrepreneurial life is hardly unique these days. In the past 30 years, the role of Hispanic women in society has rapidly evolved, and women like Bague are no longer expected to be señoras waiting at home and preparing a four-course meal for their families. They’re independent, savvy and take-charge businesswomen who are leading the ranks of entrepreneurship in the United States.

According to a 2007 survey of the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR), a coalition of Hispanic organizations that works with Census data and conducts its own research, Latinas are starting businesses at a rate six times the national average.

“Latinas are the fastest-growing group of small business owners in the country,” says Cristina Lopez, president of the Washington D.C.-based National Hispana Leadership Institute , which is bringing its annual conference and Mujer Awards gala Thursday and Friday to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

CHALLENGES

The conference will address the myriad challenges facing the modern Latina businesswoman. More than 600 Hispanic women from as far as Seattle and the American Southwest are expected to attend workshops and panel discussions about professional development, business opportunity and leadership. Topics such as politics, the economy, health and finances are headliners.

Nationwide, more than 750,000 businesses — 37 percent of all Hispanic businesses — are owned by Latinas and generate close to $50 billion in revenues, the HACR survey found.

“That is a significant segment of the economy,” Lopez says.

The Latinas’ entrepreneurship, however, is a mixed bag.

MISUNDERSTOOD

Many Hispanic women start their own businesses because they’re disappointed with corporate America. They aren’t promoted enough, they’re misunderstood culturally, and they’re paid less than men and than non-Hispanic women and African Americans.

While non-Hispanic women are making 79 cents for every dollar that a man makes, Latinas earn 59 cents, according to 2009 Census figures.

A study by the non-profit Catalyst found that women in general and Latinas in particular don’t have the right mentors or sponsors who can open doors for them and advance them in corporations.

“They have outsider status,” Lopez says. “Women were seen as not part of the boys club of the traditional decision-makers, which is white male.”

In the case of Latinas, there are cultural barriers — or perceptions that cultural barrier exist.

“Their culture is not well understood by managers,” Lopez says. “There are misperceptions that they are not seen as aggressive enough, that they’re not willing to do what it takes. There is the stereotype that they don’t have enough mobility, that they are too constrained by family ties.”

Most Latinas do put family first, Lopez says.

“Our families are very very important and we make sacrifices because of family circumstances,” she says. “We give up promotions that imply moving, we might not take on some assignments because of family circumstances and that constrains you a bit, because you do need to do that for the promotions and to take those positions of greater responsibility that get you in the pipeline” to corporate office.

But lack of geographical mobility doesn’t compromise their work ethic, and in some cases the mobility issue may only be temporary, Lopez adds.

Even that perception is changing given the recent high-profile appointments of Latinas devoted to their careers.

A SYMBOL

Hispanic women point to the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor, a Puerto Rican from New York, to the U.S. Supreme Court as the most powerful symbol of how far Latinas have come. And California lawyer Vilma Martinez was named ambassador to Argentina.

Still, in professions that demand a huge time commitment, the numbers of Hispanic women are dramatically low. While Hispanic women make up 7 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 1.3 percent of the country’s lawyers.

One of the issues being addressed at the conference is how organizations can better support and encourage Latinas in their rise up the corporate ladder.

“There are issues women have to deal with that men don’t,” Bague says. “We grow up with so many things. You have to be the base of your home and now we have to go out and work. With this economy, we don’t have a choice.”

One of the ways women help each other is by developing their own networks. Las Comadres para las Americas, a national Latina networking organization led by NHLI alum Nora Comstock, was born from the informal gatherings of groups of friends in each other’s living rooms.

Bague belongs to Femfessionals, a group of 30-plus business and professional women who “cross-promote and try to work with each other as much as possible.”

NETWORKING

In South Florida, Hispanic women are more likely to readily find networking opportunities in the cocoon of a multicultural society, but they need to get out of their comfort zone and expand to grow their careers and their businesses, business leaders say.

“Life has changed and the needs have changed from what it was 25 years ago,” says Maria Elena Torano, 72, the Miami businesswoman who co-founded the National Hispana Leadership Institute. “Hispanic women have recognized the need for an education and they now get formal educations. They come out of school thinking they’re goddesses and that’s good. It gives them confidence. But then, so what? Now they need training in what is a changing world.”

The next challenge for Latinas, Torano says, is to better integrate themselves into a global corporate culture “where the support of the comadres is not there” and where both bosses and employees hail from all over the world.

Hispanic women also are changing in another significant way: They’re engaging their husbands — or ex-husbands — in child care.

SEEKING BALANCE

“They’ve gone from the Super Mom Syndrome to making parenting a more balanced act,” Torano says.

Bague shares custody of her son with her ex-husband, a music producer who takes care of Alberto about three times a week and gives him music lessons. Bague schedules her evening meetings around the nights Alberto spends with his father.

But call her on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon and you’ll find her on her cellphone participating in a conference call right outside Alberto’s karate class.

Bague, who ran for a seat on the state Legislature when her son was only 2 years old in 2002 and lost — “Best loss I’ve ever had, I learned a lot,” she says — doesn’t discard the possibility of entering the corporate world.

But for now, she’s happy to be on her own.

“I like my flexibility,” she says.

And she’s not shy about accessing her worth and that of other modern Latina businesswomen in the marketplace.

“I think every business needs a mother,” Bague says. “We can handle so many things. At the end of the day, a mother takes care of things, makes sure things grow, makes sure everybody is doing what they need to be doing.”

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