*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.
Q and A with Lucia, Montgomery County, Maryland
“From my story and from my family story, I hope that others, especially women, are empowered to keep dreaming and to not lose hope even if there are many obstacles in the way. Because by achieving their dreams, they will inspire a new generation of women to keep dreaming and succeeding.”
Q: What is something that you are passionate about?
A: My end goal has always been and will always be to create a positive impact and change. One thing that has always run in parallel to my academic career and now my professional career is giving back to society the opportunities I was able to access. Part of that drive has been a result of my own story and that of my parents and grandparents. My family really epitomizes the American dream. I came here when I was five, and I was able to see my parents transcend economic barriers. When we moved here from Peru via the Visa lottery, my parents had to start from scratch all the economic progress they had achieved in Peru.
Q: What were your younger years like?
A: Growing up, there was always a focus on education and that education was the pathway to success. It was something that they ingrained in me. I was also able to see the different barriers to better education. I went to a high school in Florida that had about 950 students. The majority of the student were from families of lower income or immigrant families. Additionally, when I was in school, because my family’s economic status was still improving, I was not able to afford additional tutoring classes or SAT prep. On the other hand, by the time my parents and younger sisters moved to Maryland, our economic status had changed. My younger sisters had better opportunities and were able to afford to access additional educational help. They were also able to attend a good public school (ranked one of the top public schools in the country). All three of us, however, have been much luckier than my grandmothers were. Both were very smart but because they were born in different place and a different time, both never finished elementary school. My grandfathers were able to at least finish high school. As a result of being a witness to those stories, I want to help bring access to better education, especially in remote areas of Peru. In those remote geographical areas, children, especially girls, are still not able to attend school properly or there is not enough funding to provide good schools and good learning environments.
Q: What is your current career?
A: I am currently a securities analyst. My path to the financial industry was non-traditional. I graduated with a biomedical engineering degree, with a focus on Computational Biology, from Johns Hopkins University. I always thought until my final year that I would be working within that industry. I thought I would be modeling biological system. It was an industry that was challenging and had a lot of potential to create impact and change. However, my path changed due to my senior design project. During senior year, I worked on a design team focused on developing a medical device that would help deliver a new developed drug to rheumatoid arthritis patients at home. Because our team was composed of five people and I had an artistic eye, I ended up taking a role that was specific to market research. It was as if a whole new world had opened up.
Q: Did you ever imagine that you would get into finance?
A: Numbers had always been something I was comfortable with but the application had always stayed within engineering. Working on my design project, specifically on the marketing side, showed me that numbers could be applied in a different setting and still be fun and challenging. It led me to pursue my M.B.A so that I could better understand finance and marketing. This led me to my current role.
But for me, my path doesn’t stop within the financial realm. It is a stepping stone to the dream I have had since I was in High school, which is to create a for-profit social enterprise.
Q: Is there another influence in your life that has made you passionate about this goal?
A: Additionally, I am driven to want to have a positive impact on society because of my faith. A lot of people tend to become uncomfortable at the mention of religion and faith. Often, people are surprised that I am religious, because I seem open to things that seem to be the antithesis of what they associate with my faith. But for me, it is that faith that leads me to have hope that even with all the injustices there can be a better tomorrow and a better society, one where people have equity regardless of gender and race. It is in part what drives me to give back to society and why I am inspired to start a social enterprise focused on education.
As I said, I am driven to continue learning and dreaming because of my family story. My family is always my source of inspiration and my grandmothers and mother are my strong female role models. They didn’t let their circumstance define them and continued to pursue their dream. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, wanted to ensure that her daughters and her children were educated. My grandfather, who was a traditionalist, wanted my mom and aunts and uncles to work to provide an additional income to the family. But my grandmother refused to concede on that point. As a result, all her children are educated and all her grandchildren will be educated. She never stopped dreaming; even now, she lets me know her hopes for the future. From my story and from my family story, I hope that others, especially women, are empowered to keep dreaming and to not lose hope even if there are many obstacles in the way. Because by achieving their dreams, they will inspire a new generation of women to keep dreaming and succeeding.
When I think of how things were for both my grandmothers (and grandfathers) and how things are for me, I realize we have come far but that there is still more work to be done. I know that there is still an imbalance in power.
Q: What are your thoughts on feminism?
A: For me, feminism is helping women access the right tools to be able to achieve their dreams and aspirations. It is empowering women to continue dreaming, regardless of the age. It is also about teaching men that empowering women is not a zero sum game; by empowering women, we all win. Only by talking about it and by addressing the barriers that women have in society can we close the gap. More women need to join industries that are male dominated and men need to join industries that are associated with women, such as nursing and child care. Only by shifting what we perceive to be feminine and masculine and by empowering women with the right tools (access to education and positions of leadership) will society change.
I am proud to be a feminist but I know that the word still carries negative connotation for many people, including other women. I hope that in the future everyone is proud to say, “I am a feminist.”
Lucia & My Lilianas would love to hear from you! Comment below!