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Women's business group takes aim at financial literacy, mentorship for members

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Aug. 17--NEWPORT BEACH -- Their first year was about cementing a solid foundation by attracting and building a diverse membership.

Now, at the start of their second year, the Orange County chapter of the National Latina Business Women Association and its new leaders are preparing to launch two key programs.

First, the businesswomen's group plans a series of talks this fall about financial literacy for its members.

Next, an Emerging Latinas program will pair experienced business owners with would-be entrepreneurs who want to learn the pros and cons of running a business. Janet Cronick, the chapter's new president, said the group hopes to start the program in the spring.

The Orange County group was founded in July 2004, as an offshoot of the Los Angeles chapter, to promote entrepreneurship among Latina women through education, business referrals, networking and mentoring. Membership, now at about 300, includes men, non-Latinos, and students.

"Latina women in the U.S. are underrepresented" in business, said Jody Agius, a researcher working toward her doctorate in sociology at UC Irvine, who has been studying the treatment of immigrant women in the United States. "There is a stereotype of these women as being undocumented immigrants, undereducated and only good at service jobs." The county's many middle-class Latinas do not fit that stereotype, but many still face discrimination, especially women doing business, Agius said.

"Latina businesswomen are not taken seriously," said Lorena Maae, founder of the chapter and its former president. "There is an idea that we are not able to make things happen." Maae, who is assistant vice president for community relations at Citibank and chairwoman of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the association is "determined to provide an avenue for Latina women to have the opportunity to get the resources they need to start and improve their businesses." With that in mind, the chapter's board decided this month to give high priority to a Latina Financial Group program, which will start in late October or early November.

The association invited financial planner Julie Stav to launch the program.

Stav is a Cuban immigrant who transformed herself from divorced teacher with a blurry financial future into an acclaimed financial adviser, author and broadcaster with a strong following in the Latino community.

Stav said she has accepted the invitation "to motivate Latina women to play an active role on their financial future." Many Latina businesswomen have already taken such steps.

Several chapter members serve on the local Small Business Development Center advisory board, which is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"Latino businesswomen have achieved tremendous growth. They are very focused and good strategists," said Rachel Baranick, the administration's acting district director in Santa Ana.

Among them, she said, is Rebecca Flores, secretary of the Orange County chapter, who this year became the first Latina selected by the Small Business Administration as Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

--National Latina Business Women Association, Orange County chapter

Phone: (714) 658-5824

Web site:

Membership: 300

Cost of membership: $100 for individuals and nonprofits; $35 for students; $1,000 for businesses.

--Latina Financial Group program: A series of workshops during six consecutive evenings.

For members only.

Topics -- basic financial tools; planning for retirement; investing in stocks, mutuals, life insurance; resources for learning more.

Speakers will include financial planners and insurance experts.

Will start by late October or early November.


From 1997 to 2002, Latina-owned small businesses overall grew by 209 percent.

Latina-owned businesses comprise 17 percent of all businesses owned by women in California.

In California, Latina-owned business grew 24 percent between 1997 and 2002.

Among Latina-owned employer business locations in existence in 1997, three-quarters remained open in 2000.

As of 2002, Latinas owned more than 470,000 businesses in the United States.

Source: U.S. Census2002 Current Population Survey and The Center of Women's Business Research


As of 2002, Latina women are more likely to graduate from college than Latino men.

Among the 1.7 percent of Mexican-born people who work in professional occupations, about a quarter of the women have a master's degree, compared with one-fifth of the men.

Despite increasing levels of education, by the third generation in the United States (the grandchildren of the original immigrants), a wage gap still exists between white and Latino workers. On average, third-generation whites make nearly $10 an hour more than third-generation Latinos.

Source: U.S. Census2002 Current Population Survey and The Center of Women's Business Research


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Orange County Register, Calif.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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