A Student Voice
Latina Empowerment and Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez
Latina Empowerment and Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez was written by Stephanie Lopez, a student majoring in Political Science at California State University, Long Beach.
Of the 8,236 seats in state and national political office, only 109 are held by Latina women. This, according to LatinasRepresent. This is an initiative led by National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality and Latino Community Foundation of Colorado “to increase Latina participation throughout the civic engagement continuum, inspire more Latinas to seek public service opportunities and create a more reflective democracy.” In California, the number of Latina officeholders in 2014 was 145 according to a report from the California Leadership Institute.
First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez is one of three Latinos and the only Latina currently on the Long Beach City Council in a predominantly Latino city. When asked if she ever envisioned herself to be where she is now, Gonzalez admitted: “Growing up I never really thought I would end up where I am now: in a position to make positive changes.”
Before becoming Councilwoman, Gonzalez completed a fellowship at the HOPE Institute, where the program focuses on empowering Latina women, educating them on leadership and advocacy skills.
During an interview, we asked Gonzalez how, in her opinion, we can overcome any negative stigmas Latinas might have in society.
“I’m a little biased. I think Latinas are powerful beings and do not see any stigmas. But I believe that we, as Latinas, must believe in ourselves first before believing anything else. If Latinas are to overcome any of those stigmas, we must start with ourselves and then work on making others believe the same.”
Gonzalez admits that one of the main challenges she faced as a Latina in politics was having the confidence to put herself out there in a white male-dominated world, especially when she was always working for someone else in office. It was them who always wanted to change things when she finally managed to acquire enough support to put herself out there and go after what she wanted-to be where she is today.
Gonzalez has this advice for young women aspiring to succeed in politics. “Be passionate, rally support and just put yourself out there. Find your passion, whatever it may be and use it. Be ambitious with it, but do not lose sight of it. Many, as soon as they go into one office, they see it as a door to the next higher-level office. When in reality, one must stay and work on that one passion that got you there before thinking of going somewhere else.”
One of Lena Gonzalez’s missions as a Councilwoman in Long Beach is to encourage and empower Latina women in her district to aid in bettering their communities. In a predominantly Latino community, these Latina women are raising the future of that community and they can make a difference.
In addition to empowering women, Gonzalez hopes to improve health care and reduce crime rates in underserved communities for all peoples of color.