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Mujeres in Power: Sonia Sotomayor, Gina Rodriguez and Ten Other Latinas Making Incredible Strides in Their Respective Industries

First Posted: Feb 27, 2015 05:00 AM EST
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Powerful Women

Photo : Coca Cola/Lectura Books/Facebook/Twitter/UCR/SpeakHispanic/Azifm/Forbes/Getty/ Powerfullatinas.com/Elena Seibert

Everywhere you look, Latinos are finally getting the recognition, respect and visibility they so abundantly deserve.

Television shows are ready to highlight diverse Latino stories; publications have begun to streamline culturally relevant conversations that are by and/or about Latino leaders; and institutions are consistently rewarding the creative contribution of la raza ( i.e. Alejandro González wins at the Oscars for his work on "Birdman," following last year's success of Alfonso Cuaron).

But, it's time to focus some attention solely on las chicas... the women who've penetrated industries and markets, offering their unique talents and perspectives, while simultaneously making enormous gains for themselves and setting the stage for the multi-generational success of Latinas. These women are power-wielding bombshells and champions of Latina sisterhood, and they're standing at the wheel when it comes to politics, business, tech, health and other major industries:

Sonia Sotomayor, Politics

Sotomayor is a woman of unique distinction. She's the first justice of Hispanic heritage, the first Latina and third female justice to ever act on the Supreme Court of the United States. Not only that, but the Bronx-born Nuyorican and Yale graduate is one of the founding board members of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. She was also the youngest judge in the Southern District and the first Hispanic judge in New York State. On top of that, she was the first Puerto Rican in U.S. federal court history. Her work proves that she's a bit more than a pioneer, and a bit more than a role model. Instead, she is an unchained force to be reckoned with, who has charged at barriers with intelligence and integrity .

Gina Rodriguez, Entertainment

The Golden Globe Award for her titular role as Jane Villanueva in the CW dramedy "Jane the Virgin" made everyone take notice. But, Rodriguez has been a stealthy storm readying to strike for quite some time now.

With her lead role as Majo Tenorio in the musical drama "Filly Brown," her role as Alexis Fish in the hilarious family drama "Sleeping with the Fishes," and her appearance on nearly a dozen television shows, Rodriguez has been edging toward the spotlight one terrific performance after another.

But, it isn't just that she's a terrific actress; she's also wise beyond her years. Her Golden Globe speech was a testament to that, but she's also said a ton of other quote-worthy things:

"I've specifically decided to say no to projects that weren't advancing Latinos, that weren't showing us in a positive light, roles that were gratuitous and spreading untruths."

"Acting is how I'll be able to change how Latinos are viewed in media and change how little girls see and talk about themselves."

"What I will not do is continue to perpetuate stereotypes. I'm the daughter of a maid; why do I have to also play a maid? My mom was a maid so I didn't have to be a maid."

Anna Maria Chavez, Philanthropy

Chavez is the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA and a "Ban Bossy" campaign ringleader. But, she's also a leader like no other.

She's proven through efforts that she has a lifelong commitment to steering young women toward confidence, strength and satisfaction. An active champion for young girls everywhere, Chavez encourages complex challenges, creates exciting opportunities for young girls and teaches proper navigation of one's career path.

Chavez is the first Latina to head the Girls Scouts, and she was previously deputy of chief of staff for Urban Relations and Community Development under former Governor of Arizona and current U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Also, Chavez has also been recognized for her work in finance and with STEM projects.

Denise Bidot, Fashion/Modeling

Bidot's outrageously sexy curves quickly broke model stereotypes and aroused the attention of fashion designers everywhere. The world-travelling model shatters barriers with each strut, having become the very first plus-size model to walk two runways for straight-size brands, CHROMAT and Serena Williams' HSN fashion line. Additionally, she's done work with Forever 21, Target, Levi's, Nordstrom, Macy's, Old Navy, Lane Bryant and as the face of the Danish brand, Zizzi Clothing.

Aside from modeling, Bidot is also avid supporter of diverse bodies, inclusive clothing lines and positive self-image. The Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti model boosts the message, "being you is what defines real beauty."

Katherine Del Monte, Publishing

Del Monte is the publisher of Lectura Books, the nation's first bilingual children's book publisher. At the helm of the boutique publishing house, she's consistently churned out books that promote English and Spanish language literacy. And these books rise to the challenge of transforming the lives of children who live in two worlds of language, and it increases the reading involvement of parents who are Spanish-dominant.

Maria Elena Lagomasino, Business

Lagomasino is the reigning reina of U.S. corporate business. For more than three decades, the high-ranking businesswoman was the founding member of Institute for the Fiduciary Standard.

In the past, she's also acted as CEO and director for Coca-Cola, JP Morgan Chase and GenSpring Family Offices. Now, she is the CEO and managing partner of WE Family Offices, where she engages clients and offers wealth management. The savvy business woman is frequently recognized for her wealth leadership and banking expertise. And in September 2006, she was also appointed to help lead and effort to funds to aid disaster victims in Central America.

Tiffany López, Education

Maybe you haven't heard of the first Latina professor at the University of California at Riverside. However, the prof in the department of theater is a leading scholarly voice who's gained national attention for her work in Latino and Chicano communities.

López was the first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. Since then, she's dedicated her career to increasing educational opportunities through literature and arts, viewing art as a platform to foster transformation and enact social change.

López edited the anthologies "Growing Up Chicana/o" and "Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio." And her personal work includes book projects, reviews, articles and essay, which all go toward growing the Latino community. Previously, she sponsored two University of California Regents Professorships held by MacArthur fellow and playwright, Luis Alfaro and muralist and arts activist Barbara Carrasco.

Jeanette Cisneros, Medicine/Pharma

Cisneros may be the medical director of the Marina Public Health Clinic in Monterey County, but she also comes from a long line of political and social activists. From the miner's union in northern Mexico to the civil rights movement in the U.S., her family's contribution taught Cisneros the power of influence and action.

She began medical school five weeks after giving birth to her first child, and was pregnant with a third child by the end of her residency--yet she was never inclined to stop moving toward her goals. The bilingual PhD was the also founding member of the Hermana scholarship committee, providing funds to Latina college students attending college in Monterey Bay. In addition, she's active in groups that promote Latina professionals, and she continues to contribute to her community in other ways.

Elianne Ramos AKA @Ergeekgoddess , Tech/Social Media

There aren't many people who are quite as social media savvy as Ramos, who is the Principal and CEO of Speak Hispanic and the Vice-Chair of Communications and PR at LATISM.

She's an award-winning social entrepreneur and advocate for the Latino community. And she's easily one of the most influential Latinas populating Twitter with entries that are 140 characters or less. Plus, she uses her powers for good.

She's taken her years of experience working as a creative direction, copywriter, TV spot producer and much more to speakerphone the importance of civil awareness and participation in social justice issues.

Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Religion

Carcaño happens to be the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, which is the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Elected in 2004, she's presently the Resident Bishop of the Los Angeles Episcopal Area, overseeing the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

She's also has a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of those individuals who've experienced poverty and discrimination. And her work extends to immigrants, refugees, farm workers and the poor. She's an avid supporter of LGBTQ rights, compressive immigration reform and interfaith prayer. Also, she's penned a book titled, "I Believe in Jesus," which was published in English and Spanish.

Natalia Oberti Noguera, Social Activism

Pipeline Fellowship founder, LGBTQ activist and feminist, Oberti Noguera looks to push women forward by providing a bootcamp experience that intends to create capital for female social entrepreneurs and change the face of angel investing. The Yale graduate started Pipeline with a focus on education, mentoring and practice after becoming a chapter leader of New York Women Social Entrepreneurs.

Because she's often the single lesbian Latino voice of reason in a room filled with heterosexual white men, she frequently and happily shares her opinions and concerns about diversity in the tech industry. Also, she's been recognized nationally for her influence, her outspoken integrity and her knowledge about tech.

Fabiana Claudino, Sports

No, Claudino isn't a U.S. Latina. Instead, she's a no nonsense volleyball star from Brazil.

She represented her native country at the 2004 Summer Olympics, led the Brazilian team for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and played for the national team at the 2014 World Championship, where they defeated Italy and won a bronze medal.

While she isn't from the U.S., she wins major props for her contribution to the world of sports, and she wins respect for gracefully handling being told by a racist fan that she looked similar to a monkey.

Rather than practicing her volleyball skills on his head, she took to her Instagram account to express her feelings: "Experiencing this is difficult and hard! Experiencing it in my land, makes it even worse.... I have reflected a lot on whether or not to speak out, but I think that speaking about racism helps start a conversation in the world we live and want for our children. I do not need to be respected for being a two-time Olympic champion or for the titles I won, that's nonsense! I demand respect for being Fabiana Claudino Marcelino, a citizen, a human being."

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