My wife Claudia runs the We Are All Human Foundation. She held her Hispanic Leadership Conference this week in New York City. I spoke about Hispanic trust in institutions and the community’s expectations of business, CEOs and employers. In the two days, I met two remarkable Latinas, Dolores Huerta, and Rosie Casals.
Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 with Cesar Chavez, giving voice to Latino agricultural workers demanding higher wages from grape farmers. She helped to direct the national grape boycott that in 1970 forced the growers to pay more and to offer better living conditions. Somehow, she had 11 children while maintaining a full schedule of union organizing and activism. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. Her foundation trains leaders in community organizing. Last night, my wife and her fellow honorees used Huerta’s signature UFW rallying cry, “Si se puede,” meaning “Yes, we can,” to close the dinner. At 93 years old, she has a sparkle and energy that is the envy of all who meet her.
Casals is a tennis legend, winner of five Wimbledon doubles championships with partner Billie Jean King in the late 60s and early 70s. She was the inspiration for equal pay for women on the tennis tour, when men were making ten times more than women for tournaments. She and Billie Jean persuaded the other top seven female players to leave the tour and set up the all-woman series called the Virginia Slims Circuit. She then organized the Women’s Tennis Association because the male players refused to allow women to join their new union. Rosie is now working to get Latinas to play tennis, offering them free racquets and instruction through the Latin American Tennis Foundation. The example of the African American community, the Williams sisters and Coco Gauff, is top of mind for Casals, who wants to develop the next Mary Joe Fernández or Gabriela Sabatini.
These two women understood the power of media to make the case for equal pay. They were crusaders who took action, whether a boycott of grapes or quitting the tennis tour to set up their own series. They understood the need for partners, in the case of Casals it was Billie Jean King, for Huerta it was Cesar Chavez. Their stories should inspire future generations of Hispanics proving that change is possible through hard work and determination.
Richard Edelman is CEO.