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In the workplace, Yai Vargas noticed women weren’t being heard or supported. But she also recognized that women weren’t asking for the support they needed either. Those are just some of the big takeaways she shared during ColorComm’s 5th annual convention in Maui, Hawaii. Vargas participated on a panel entitled “Women Leading the Way and Changing the World.”
"Six years ago I was trying to figure out a way for women to have a safe space to understand some of the challenges they were having in their careers,” Vargas said during our one-on-one interview. “Being able to realize what is your goal is one part of the equation. But really understanding what you’re lacking, what some of your challenges are … and taking responsibility for accomplishing those goals was something I wanted to create.”
Vargas created The Latinista, a business that provides professional development to women while giving them a non-judgmental space to find their voice in corporate environments.
“I’ve had tons of women approach the workshops in a very shy manner saying, 'You know what, I have some challenges. I don’t know how to accomplish my goals and I need to be a more assertive, professional,'" Vargas explained. "The workshops have really turned some of these women’s lives around."
But first, Vargas had to navigate her own journey. Born in the Dominican Republic, Spanish was her first language. As Vargas prepared to leave college and contemplated how to make her mark in the professional world, she realized her cultural background and language could give her a competitive advantage.
“I’m living this story. I will tell you if my people are buying this product. I will tell you the most authentic journey that a user is experiencing,” she said. “So when people started asking me [for] my perspective … I absolutely raised my hand. You can dig into this information and insight. I certainly used my language as that big differentiator.”
Showing up to work as her authentic self was just the first step. She told conference attendees how she joined various employee resource groups – even the ones she didn’t personally identify with – to better understand the needs of others and expand her network.
“It’s really important for us to understand how we can be better collaborators and not competitors. A lot of people think, ‘Oh gosh, this person does the same type of work as me. I better stay away from them,’” Vargas said. “No! Bring them really close to you and say, ‘How are we going to really do this? We have the same mission. We serve the same people. We’re going to be better together because I can’t do this myself.’”
Yai Vargas’ desire to connect people and inspire women is why she left her job this spring to pursue The Latinista full-time.
“I knew that sitting behind a big corporate desk for more years wasn’t going to let me live out my passion to help more women accomplish their career goals,” she says. “You know what, the bank account is there. I’m ready to take on the world and I’m praying that this is going to work out. But you really can’t buy happiness.”