Latina Leaders and New Media

I attended the NCLR session, "Serving, Leading and Inspiring: Latinas in Elected and Appointed Office" which was great. So many amazing stories! I'll write them up later on. But afterwards I was able to grab my former State Sentor Iris Martinez (disclosure: I have donated to her campaign), State Representative Susana Mendoza and Elmy Bermejo, Chair of the board of HOPE, for a few minutes on social media.

It was a case study in how different we see social media and who is using it.

For Senator Martinez, she does not have a dedicated press person to help manage any social media outreach. Senators share press people, so one press person could be handling 4-5 or even 10 state senators. This doesn't seem to lead to having the time or energy to handle any substantive social media presence. I've talked with friends over the last few years and most of us are frustrated that elected officials aren't using the Internet to it's fullest extent. Martinez is committed to updating her website soon and looking for ways to increase her presence online.

Representative Mendoza is on Facebook and Twitter. It's really her on the other end of the iPhone, which was peeking out of her suit jacket, sending in updates. She says that she resisted joining for a long time, but quickly came to realize the power of social media/networking. While she was on the impeachment panel for former Gov. Blagojevich, she got a TON of feedback from people around the state about the impeachment as well as about her. "I got messages from Republicans in Lake County saying "I've never voted for a Democrat, but I'd vote for you if you ran for higher office." You don't let all of that go to your head, but it's great to hear from so many people. Facebook is the best door knocker!" We discussed how someone at her level of politics or even more local could definitely use Facebook and other social media tools to expand ones base in order to run for a higher office. She does say that she tries not to update too much and any updates are fairly relevant. Too many elected officials update too much and border on annoying.

Mendoza knows that her community still has issues with the digital divide and sees more non-constituents giving her feedback through social media tools. But is committed to bringing resources to the community. As she sees it, getting more people connected to computers will only increase their voices and education.

HOPE is working in California to increase the number of Latinas in leadership. They are also working on launching a poll to see how Latinas in California are using social media. Who is using it, why, how as well as seeing who isn't using it or even has access to social media. The digital divide is also a huge issue for HOPE and they want to see the divide decrease. As for their leadership training, they are targeting Latinas with potential. After a Latina goes through the training, they have access to the entire state wide network. One Latina who was campaigning had a goal of raising $5,000 in a week. With HOPE's network if every Latina on the list gave $20, she would have reached one week's goal.

And that's what HOPE is trying to do. Get more Latinas engaged in politics through running for office, working on campaigns and GIVING to campaigns. Bermejo says that it's working. Latinas are voting more, organizing receptions for other candidates and are giving more to campaigns.

The networks are forming one Latina at a time and by connecting online through Facebook, Twitter or whatever we create, I think that we'll be quite a force to be reckoned with.