The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

‘Change the narrative of our communities’ — Business leadership speaker on the importance of creating wealth among Latinos

‘Change the narrative of our communities’ — Business leadership speaker on the importance of creating wealth among Latinos - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Latinos and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, presents during a Latinx in Business Leadership symposium Oct. 11, 2022, in the Vista Room of the Central Academic Building. Lynch said Latinos contribute about $2.8 trillion to the American economy but create little to no wealth for themselves because of systemic barriers, which can be addressed by being knowledgeable of the collective power of the Hispanic community and keen on supporting Latinx businesses. Photo by Sergio Medina

LatinX Heritage Month continued with an Oct. 11 symposium about encouraging and strengthening entrepreneurs in the Hispanic community.

Before an audience of about 25 in the Vista Room of the Central Academic Building, Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Latinos and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, spoke about the necessity of Latinx entrepreneurs and why their nurturing promotes the success of Hispanic communities. 

About 3/4 of Texas A&M University-San Antonio enrollment, which is about 7,300 students, is Hispanic.

The key takeaways from the symposium include:

Believe in something higher.

As a spiritual individual, Lynx said it does not necessarily mean one has to believe in God. However, it’s important to recognize a moral compass that grounds one to their values in the pursuit of a leadership position. 

“Whatever it is, hold on to that,” she told the audience.

She quoted Martin Luther King Jr., “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.” 

“Understand why you would want power and what’s your purpose for it,” she added. 

Understand the collective power of Latinos.

Lynx said Latinos constitute about 19% of the U.S. population, according to a 2021 report from the McKinsey and Company consulting firm. That’s about 62 million people. Hispanics are the largest ethnic group in Texas.

Lynx said half of all Latinos are below the age of 35.

“So we are really, really young,” she said. “Between 2020 and 2030, Latinos will be 78% of the workforce.

“It’s important also to prepare yourselves for those jobs.” 

She said Latinos contribute about $2.8 trillion to the national economy annually, comparable to the GDP of France, which is $2.6 trillion.

This goes without mentioning how influential Hispanic food and music has become to the US, she added. 

“So Latinos are influencing not just because of our economic contributions but also because we are changing the DNA of what it means to be Americans,” Lynx said. 

In addition to GDP contributions, Lynx said Mexican-Americans sent about $40 billion back to their families in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We took the little we had, and we helped people there,” she said.

“Latinos in the U.S.?” When we do well, we share our wealth,” Lynx added. 

Identify the problem.

However, contributing so much money does not equal a Latinx community that is booming economically.

“If it’s a $2.8 trillion GDP, then how much wealth are we creating?” Lynx said.

According to the McKinsey report, Latinos are collectively underpaid about $288 billion a year. 

“That is half of the earnings of Walmart,” Lynx said, which is about $573 billion for 2022.  

She described it as being cheated from an equal income to a position held by a white person, using the example of Latina engineers out of college, who earn about $57,000 a year, compared to white males in the same position, who earn about $120,000. 

So even when one gets a degree, they’re still being cheated from equal pay, Lynx said. 

Between not having equal pay and sending money back to families in Latin America, it means that the Latinx communities in the U.S. are creating zero wealth, Lynx said. 

“We’re giving away our wealth; we’re not creating our wealth, and that is dangerous for the country,” she said.

Build community wealth.

Wealth creates resilience, both for present communities and through the generations, Lynx said.

Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Latinos and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, gives a business leadership presentation Oct. 11, 2022, in the Vista Room of the Central Academic Building. She spoke about the importance of creating community wealth in Latinx communities by supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. Photo by Sergio Medina

Ambition and wealth are both important to strengthen families and communities, she added, and this needs to be integrated into the way people think.

Seventy percent of Latino and Black families have fallen below middle class, Lynx said. 

“It is important that you think in a pragmatic way about your degree and about your career,” Lynx said. “A degree without the right networks and the right intentionality will just make someone who’s in a lot of debt.” 

The social contract, the status quo, needs to be reconsidered for Latinx communities because it is not OK to be cheated from equal pay while contributing so much, Lynx said. 

Additionally, instead of going to stores in the nice neighborhoods, support businesses in the local community, Lynx suggested. 

“Building businesses — Latino businesses — is really, really important,” she said. 

Lynx said recognizing the power Latinx communities hold is good, but it is also crucial to understand the whole truth, which includes unequal pay.

“I need you to start thinking, what is the law? What do we owe? What are our assets?” she added. “If you’re a young person, you need to think about your financial literacy just like you do your tech ability, your digital skills.”

Both digital and financial skills go hand in hand, Lynx said.

“If you grow Latino businesses, if you understand financial systems, if they can professionalize their services, then they can apply for federal, state loans; they can also have banking relationships; they can create products than you and I want,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for us to create wealth and strengthen local economy.

“If you go to that 50 cent store — not the dollar store — the 50 cent Latino store, and you spend your money there, you’re helping that local business. So don’t go to Starbucks, go to a coffee shop that’s in the community,” she said. 

Make that mindset shift — ‘We do belong.’

Lynx said Latinos deserve communities where investments and capital should be prioritized, but there are systemic barriers.

“White communities … you don’t have a workforce development office, you don’t have an unemployment office,” Lynx said. “What you have is people who pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, can my son or daughter come and work at your bank for the summer?’ Oh, you know what? I’m going to start a business, can I borrow some money? Oh, yeah, I don’t want my home to be a collateral.”   

Latinos typically don’t have the same experience, Lynx said.

“When a Latino business wants some money, you know what happens? They get a loan for $1,500,” she said. “They pay 400% on that $1,500 loan. 

“So it’s so hard to grow our businesses,” she said. “So there are systemic barriers that need to be addressed because no matter how hard we work, we won’t be able to get to that next level.”

Collective power, then, understands the structure of the systems and adopts a mindset to create new markets, Lynx said.

She said many in the community deny help because they see it as a handout: “We are a very prideful people.

“That’s the wrong mentality because they’re leaving money at the table,” she continued. “Lot of white businesses take a lot of that money.”

Lynx said that during the first round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, 90% of Black and Latinx businesses didn’t take one, even as the Small Business Administration forgave “so many” of them.

“We have to understand the systems; we have to be determined to change the narrative of our communities.”

Be ready to see opportunity where others see liability, to understand power structures, financial markets, to have the mindset of an entrepreneur and to see Latinx communities as opportunities to invest, Lynx said. 

“And that is the task of this next generation,” she said. “If you survive the pandemic, you have greater purpose than any other generation before. Do not take it lightly.”

Lynch serves on the National Community Advisory Council for Bank of America, the Board of Directors of the Congressional Management Foundation and the Council on Underserved Communities. She has a bachelor’s degree in public policy and management from the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy. She also holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy/counseling from the USC Rossier School of Education.

“Hispanic heritage is about celebration of our diversity and our strength, and that leadership comes in so many different packages and that that’s what’s so exciting about being in this country,” Lynx said. “This is why I’m a believer of the American dream, and I will fight for it so that every community, and my community as well, has a fair shot.”

For information on internships, community engagement and career development, visit the Mays Center in the Science and Technology Building, Suite 111.

About the Author

Sergio Medina
Editor in Chief
Sergio Medina is a journalism senior and editor in chief for The Mesquite at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He transferred from San Antonio College in December 2021, where he was editor for The Ranger student publication for four years. Sergio’s interest in journalism comes from a love in storytelling consisting of movies, video games, TV series, books and comic books. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree, Sergio aims to join the journalism ranks servicing the San Antonio community.

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