Hilda Solis

By:Annette Perez Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables

Your Daughter is Not College Material. Maybe She Should Become a Secretary

Hilda Solis

"Look around the room; each of you has a story!” Solis started enthusiastically, to a packed crowd of more than 1,000, while giving her opening remarks. Solis unquestionably has quite a story to share. Solis was born in 1957 and has dedicated most of her life to public service. “Many Latinas did not know that they could go to college or become public servants,” said Solis. But, she has served in the U.S. House of Representatives, on the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees, in the California State Assembly, and in the California State Senate just to name a few.

Born to immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico, she was the middle child of seven. “My parents taught us dignity, respect and amour – love. My mother’s dream was that we complete high school. It was a right. In her country it was not,” Solis said emotionally. Unfortunately, a guidance counselor advised Solis’ mother, “Your daughter is not college material. Maybe she should become a secretary.” To the dismay of her guidance counselor, Hilda Solis did become a secretary. In fact, she became the 25th United States Secretary of Labor under the Obama administration. “It was a dream come true to serve as the first Latina with a cabinet level position in the United States government,” Solis said to an outpouring of cheers and applause from the audience members. “Women and young girls have to figure out where they are in order to move things ahead.”

“I am here because I think it is wonderful to discuss women being the drivers of the new economy,” said Solis. According to recent Center for Women’s Business Research statistics, women-owned firms contribute nearly three trillion dollars to our national economy, account for 28% of all privately-owned businesses in the U.S. and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs. Women entrepreneurs, individually and collectively, make a significant contribution to the U.S. economy, even in the face of a recession. “Women need to create networks, mentors, friends to get advice from. Women are more open as we find our confidence, in that we are going to be able to do more.”

While many hurdles still exist for women, it is evident that Solis is a passionate leader who has devoted her life to breaking down barriers for women and being a public servant. She says, “Women’s ideas and desires will inspire future generations to continue to fracture encumbrances. In turn, it will continue to drive the new economy.”