Daniela Pierre-Bravo is an MSNBC reporter for Morning Joe and a two-time published author but before she achieved this level of success in her career she was trying to figure out how to navigate the workplace as an undocumented first-generation Latina. In her latest book, The Other: How to Own Your Power at Work as a Woman of Color, Daniela shares her struggles as a college student selling Mary Kay products to make ends meet to landing internships with Bad Boy and MTV, and how she eventually found her place and passion. She and her family migrated from Chile when she was 11 without paperwork which meant she had to get creative about finding work but that only fueled her to succeed. Writing this book recognizes not only her own career journey but also looks at how different women of color (WOC) have confronted ignorance and challenges and how they can handle those situations.
The 12-chapter book covers topics including microaggressions, burnout, impostor syndrome, and finding your purpose. The very title of the book was one Daniela admits she was slightly uncomfortable with at first but the very last chapter of the book is dedicated to embracing the power of being “the other”. Flipping the script on the idea of not being like everyone else as being a bad thing is the thread that connect seach chapter. Being true to oneself is where the real power lies, according to Daniela, and it’s exactly what allows WOC to thrive in the workplace.
“For a long time, I didn’t feel American enough because of my undocumented status, and not Latina enough in other spaces,” she tells HipLatina. “When you embrace all parts of who you are – especially your culture – you stop fragmenting parts of yourself and become a stronger, fuller version of you. In my own career, it made me a better storyteller, and it allowed me to advocate for myself, my ideas, and others more effectively. I became less worried about how other people would perceive me, and more focused on the work at hand and the impact I could have.”
When discussing WOC in the workplace, microaggressions is a key part of that discussion. For 64 percent of women, microaggressions are a workplace reality and Black women are more likely than other women to have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise, according to LeanIn. Daniela writes one of the ways to combat this is to repeat ignorant questions back to the person. She explains that it gives the person an opportunity to hear how inappropriate their comment was. But it’s not just addressing the issue with others, it’s checking in on what you’re internalizing with these microaggressions. “How we talk about ourselves to ourselves matters.”
In the chapter entitled “You are Worthy” she writes about impostor syndrome, a feeling many professional Latinas are familiar with. That sense of not belonging or being “good enough” can steadily grow as their roles change but , for first gen, that’s often coupled with the weight of achieving the American Dream immigrant parents are known to have for their children. She describes it as a “burden” she carries proudly though it does come with an emotional cost. She shares a statistic that 70 percent of people will experience impostor syndrome with minorities disproportionately affected. It’s a feeling that she found hard to shake sharing that even when she was in positions with more power she still felt compelled to ask people if they needed coffee. Throughout the book she interviews various women of color intertwining her own story closing out each chapter with takeaways. “You are Worthy” ends with an emphasis on fostering a sense of self-worth and confidence in order to “show others that you’re worth it… and you mean business.”
One of the women she profiles is Julissa Prado, the founder of Rizos Curls, a curly hair care brand which became the first brand of its kind sold at Ulta Beauty and one of the few sold at Target. Both launches sold out in a matter of days. The brand has a strong social media presence with more than 300k followers on Instagram and she harnessed that community to promote her brand launches which undoubtedly attributed to the products selling out. Daniela attributes Julissa’s WHY to her success and that why is her community and her mission to provide an all-natural hair care line for people with curly hair.
Julissa is one example of the growing number of Latinas launching businesses. Latinas represent 40 percent of all Latinx business owners and the number of Latina-led employer firms has grown 20 percent within the last five-year period of data available, according to a 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report.
Both Julissa and Daniela are also the first in their family to achieve their level of success and, as with many first gen, have had to figure out their career paths on their own. Daniela writes about the need to not only self-advocate but also the tendency to be your own worst critic and even feel a sense of guilt at achieving success. “I found it helpful to remember that this wasn’t a betrayal to our ancestors but a celebration and honoring of them. Equally as important is to honor your own needs. Sometimes we feel so much responsibility on our shoulders that we forget that,” she tells us.
It’s all too relatable for first-gen, the inclination to do ALL the things, to hustle more than rest. So in recognizing this affects many women of color, the book not only addresses HOW to own your power in the workplace but also how to care for your mental health and learn the power of saying “no”. “No matter where you are on your career ladder, practice telling others what you need and setting boundaries,” she writes.
More and more we’re seeing discussions pop up around this very important topic, especially among first gen therapists like Dr. Lisette Sanchez who specializes in helping first gen professionals. She shares that many struggle with balancing familial and personal obligations: “This may lead to engaging in people-pleasing behaviors and struggling with boundary setting,” she previously wrote in an article for HipLatina. She also shares how many first gen “may experience challenges connecting with others due cultural differences and perceived lack of relatability. This may lead to feelings of self-doubt and isolation which further reinforces the sense of disconnection.”
Daniela’s work empowering professional WOC extends beyond the book, she also launched Acceso, a community for mentorship she created at the start of the pandemic. They host career sessions led by mentors covering topics including networking and career transitions and offer community and resources. This idea is one she pitched to her own mentor, Morning Joe host and journalist Mika Brzezinski. She writes about finding the courage to bring her ideas to Mika and take that initiative which she describes as having “more cumulative power than you think.” With two books and a global mentoring community for women, it’s clear Daniela’s words of wisdom resulted in the success she’s experiencing now and she wants other Latinas to believe it can happen to them too.
“I’d argue Latinas – especially who are the first of their families to achieve and receive many opportunities that didn’t exist before them – don’t necessarily lack confidence. Instead, we have to shift our mentality and pay attention to how much we’ve contributed to spaces and start to better discern when those places of work aren’t giving us back what we’re putting in,” she tells us.
“When we shift our mentality from being the benefiter of the opportunities given at the mercy of someone else, to actually understanding why we’ve earned it and discerning where imbalances exist – we find a different type of confidence to ask for what we want.”