In an increasingly diverse and inclusive business sphere, a lot of Latinas are coming out into the open and seeing success, but a lot of things are still holding them back from their true potential. Business and life coach, Michelle Gomez addresses these issues through her Latina life coaching program, where she focuses on the underserved niche of Latina women in business. Michelle understands that a lot of what holds Latinas back from really showing up in a powerful way goes back to unhealed trauma and the constant pressure to give in to other people’s expectations. She teaches her clients to see themselves as enough, overcome the impostor syndrome and reach out for their true dreams, regardless of what other people think. She talks about these and some points from her book, Own Your Brilliance: Overcome Impostor Syndrome for Career Success as she joins Gerry Foster on the podcast.
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Empowering Latinas with Michelle Gomez
I am so thrilled and honored to have this young lady as my special guest because she is exceptional. I am talking about the one and only Michelle M. Gomez. Before I share some things about Michelle, I want you to know that one of the things that I take great pride in is being able to bring to you, as readers, the very best of the best at what they do. Without a question, Michelle M. Gomez is one of those people. Let me tell you a little bit about her if I may. Michelle M. Gomez, MBA is the Latina career and life coach. She is a speaker and author of Own Your Brilliance: Overcome Impostor Syndrome For Career Success. Michelle has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management as well as a Master’s degree in Business Administration. She has over 21 years of experience, learning, navigating, and overcoming obstacles.
They played women in the corporate environment. She is passionate about helping Latinas achieve positions of power and influence through effective career planning and personal advocacy. Michelle uses her expertise in executive presence, professional communication, personal branding, leadership quality, and negotiation methods to empower Latinas toward their personal and professional goals. By the way, she’s a mompreneur. She’s a working mom holding down a corporate job while building her coaching business. Michelle helps other working moms develop a work-life design that incorporates career ambition and conscious parenting through inner feminine healing. She’s launched a new area of her life coaching practice called Healed Hijas which is a program focused on helping adult daughters heal their Latina mother wounds.
Michelle, thank you for being here. Tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of your business, your coaching, your brand, and why you do what you do. I love that you are doing it for a specific niche audience.
I started to launch my company in 2018 and I had already a small following of women who knew me personally or through different groups, associations or networking events I had attended. I had plenty of Latinas come to me and say, “How did you do this?” They saw that I had elevated my career in a corporate space even in an environment that was very male-dominated. Many of the people in positions of power and influence were middle-aged white guys, yet here I am and I stuck out like a sore thumb. They were like, “How did you get there?” I started mentoring initially people I knew, people I didn’t know, people who reached out to me on LinkedIn. I had even, in my corporate jobs, interviewed.
When I went back to them and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve decided to go with another candidate but I wish you well. We’ll hold on to your resume.” I’ve even had people reach out to me on LinkedIn round about, send me an email like, “I appreciate that interview. I was wondering if I could meet with you for a cup of coffee. I’ve been interviewing for a while now and nothing’s happening. Maybe there might be some blind spots you can help me with.” I obliged and like, “Of course.” They turned into a one-hour coaching session of “Let’s look at your resume. Let’s look at your LinkedIn profile. How to have an empowered interview style? How to negotiate? How to get your questions answered?” All those things.
People started listening to what I was teaching and I realized like, “I need to do something about this and do something with this.” I took all of everything that I know about being a woman of color in a corporate environment, and then started an entrepreneurial pursuit. I’m learning even now the journey of being a mompreneur, a solopreneur, and a Latina in business. Fortunately, we live in Southern California as you and I do. The Latina entrepreneurs’ space out here is so rich. There’s such a community of amazing Latino business owners. They’re so supportive and they’ve embraced me. It’s been wonderful.
I’ve spoken at universities and women empowerment forums. I’m doing a lot of webinars and podcasts due to COVID. I had been working with so many women throughout my career already. A few men here and there, and even women who don’t fall into the Latina demographic. I have clients that are not Latinas but they are women. As I was doing this work with them, Gerry, I realized that there were parts of outside of impostor syndrome, outside of fear and limiting beliefs, some trauma in terms of the maternal relationship they have with their mothers. I have a lot of experience with this myself and I have been on my own healing journey for years. I was able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned through therapy, my own life coaches that I work with, and the reading that I do in the journal prompt as the spiritual journey I’ve been on to heal my mother wounds.
I opened this other space because I thought there’s already so many women talking to me about this when we’re talking about career because it always ties back to something in our childhood about why they struggle to show up and advocate for themselves in a powerful way. It’s been wonderful. I started this Healed Hijas group and it’s grown to over 180 women. It’s great because I’m sure every woman of color and different demographic has similar story. We, as Latinas, we don’t necessarily come from a culture that gives us a safe space to talk about this stuff. We’re supposed to revere our moms in a certain way.
Own Your Brilliance: Overcome Impostor Syndrome for Career Success
If we don’t, we’re bad daughters and we’re not allowed to deal with mental health, trauma, and boundaries. I realized that I was so alone on my journey that I thought if I start this, if I share with all these women who follow me already and I was very transparent like, “Just so you guys know, I know it looks like everything is great but I’ve been dealing with something silently that I’ve never shared.” When I shared it, all of the DMs, the responses to my email, the text messages are like, “Girl, me too. Where can we go?” I looked at my life coach. I’m like, “Now I feel a responsibility. I need to create a platform and a place for these women to go.” I did. That’s how Healed Hijas came about.
Thank you for sharing that because you’re hitting upon so many great points from a big branding perspective. One is to find the underserved market which are often people who have needs and wants that are not being met or they’re being met poorly. Whenever you can look out into marketplace and find that void, that gap where people are crying out, they’re looking for what their voice to be heard, you can come along, and give them that platform for someone to finally hear them to help heal them, you’re onto something here. I applaud you for what you do. When you start looking at the Latina market, and as you said, this is universal. That’s your warm market. That’s your heritage. That makes sense and also given your own background. Is there something that you could give as advice to others out there perhaps who were thinking about, “Maybe I should be a life coach. Maybe I should do some coaching?” What advice would you have to those who perhaps want to be like you?
For me particularly, it was a voice I couldn’t deny. I’ve had people come to me and ask me for help so much that I thought, “I have a purpose here and I should be more than this corporate job. I should be doing something else.” I love to read, write, coach, and mentor. I can’t say this for everyone, but for me, there was a time where I got tired of clapping for myself. I’m getting this job. I got this degree. I went into grad school and then I did this and I get this promotion. I doubled my salary here and I got this bonus. All of these gold stars are great but they’re also conducive to someone who is looking for validation and an impostor syndrome struggles. It’s a trauma response sometimes to overwork and keep getting that gold star. It’s a gold star junkie and that was me.
After a while, I got tired. I’m like, “I like other people to win too.” Sometimes, when you are in a boardroom surrounded by a bunch of middle-aged white guys, it gets lonely. You ask any first-generation Latino-American, or Asian-American, or Indian-American, when they’re first born here, you’re the first to go to the university, and you’re the first to be a business owner, or first anything, it can be very lonely. It’s not like you come from a background where everyone is a college graduate. You have all these ties, privilege, and you have all these connections but you literally have to get out there and figure it out.
I was like, “I’m ready to show some other women who were like me who would have been nice if they could talk to somebody.” Other communities, privileged communities do it all the time. They connect each other and meet one another. I wish we had parents that were at the golf course at the Country Club talking to some big way like, “My kid is about to graduate from college. Do you think you can get her an internship? Make her a receptionist or something.” “Yeah, no problem.” I come in with this undeserved privilege because my parents are well connected. That’s not our reality. I thought I want to see other women do what I’ve done and do better and do more.
One of my clients who works on Capitol Hill had a major bill approved by her congresswoman that she serves. This bill is going to help so many communities that are struggling to stay in their apartments because they’re facing eviction due to nonpayment with the unemployment rate being what it is. She’s like, “I want to make an impact.” She drafted a bill and she got the notification from congress that her bill was approved. That right there is way better, more satisfactory to me than to get another promotion or to get another raise. It was a purpose. Now you’ve done, reach back and help others. I’m like, “I’m going to do it.” I’m now focused on them and continue to refine my skillset as a coach and as a professional. If you want to do that, it’s a pool. It’s almost like you get sick at yourself.
What you’re hitting upon also which I love about is that you know who you are and why you’re here on this planet.
There is a spiritual journey for sure to know your purpose.
When you look at what your purpose is, particularly as a brand because I see you as a brand, not just someone who’s providing expertise. There’s a big difference. What do you feel your purpose is? What has God called you to do? How do you articulate this is that void out there that you’re helping to fill? What would that be for you?
It’s a combination of helping women understand that they are marketable and valuable. There’s a way that the world sees them that they need to catch up. The Latino community is responsible for over $1.7 trillion in consumer spend every year. We are loyal consumers. Spanish is one of the most spoken languages all over the world. This is why they need Latinos on boards. This is why we need Latinos in positions of leadership and management. It’s to influence this because companies who want to take their brand global and want to tap into that global consumer dollar, they need the diversity in the boardroom. The purpose for me is to bring this information to them and let them see themselves from a new light and change their narrative.
When you show up with that understanding of your value and rather than look at the fact that you’re brown and you’re not privileged, because most of the women who come to me, they didn’t come from privilege. “I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. I have an accent.” It’s like, “That’s your superpower. You know hard work and how to be resourceful. You’re diligent and not a silver spooner. Nobody handed you everything. You’re willing to work for it, and there’s a part of that value that’s tremendously marketable in this global consumer dollar. Let’s get you onboard so that you can start to market yourself with that understanding rather than, ‘Woe is me? I don’t have all of these things.’” You have other stuff that’s as important and as valuable.
Where do your leadership skills come from because you are truly a leader?
I’d like to believe definitely my education. I do a ton of reading, Gerry. I love books. Books have always been such a guiding post for me. Everything that I’ve learned, I’m so grateful for people like Sheryl Sandberg, Brené Brown, Iyanla Vanzant, Don Miguel Ruiz, Glennon Doyle, I can keep going. I read a ton. In terms of my leadership skills, leadership is less about us and more about the people. The more we start removing the shine off of us and we realize that we’re optimizing people to perform at the best level that they have to offer, that is true leadership.
It’s empathy, connection, communication. It’s all things human. That’s what I feel tasked to do in terms of a purpose is to change the narrative also because as women, we work differently, even men. Gender role’s out the window. Women are doing so much more than having children. Some women aren’t even having children. Some women have jobs while going to school, while building a business, while having a very fulfilling hobby. We’re so multifaceted now that my goal is to help women understand that you don’t have to be pigeonholed into one thing. You can diversify your portfolio in a way that empowers you. That’s the leadership call that I bring to the table. It’s like, “Let me call out some blind spots that you’re not aware of. We can make that as part of your personal brand of excellence,” which is something that I help my clients develop as well.
How do you help them call out those blind spots they’re not aware of? Do you have a process for that?
I do. We definitely do a full audit on their resume on their LinkedIn profile. I ask them a lot of tough questions because here’s what people tend to fall into. It’s an icky trap but we get into this idea that we have to please everyone. “We should be doing this and that. Look at this job. You should go after that. You should get that degree. Of course, you should go to grad school.” We do so much shooting of ourselves that we start going up this ladder. Jack Canfield says in The Success Principles, “You climb up this ladder and then you get to the top and realize that it was leaned up against the wrong building.”
Latina Life Coaching: The struggle women have with showing up and advocating themselves in a powerful way always ties back to something from their childhood.
It happens a lot. I finished reading Becomingby Michelle Obama and she did the same thing. She did all the right things because she was like, “I felt like I should do this. I needed to make people proud of me. I liked what it felt for people to be proud of me.” I did the thing. I went to Princeton, to Harvard. I got the important job in Chicago. I had a nice car, gym membership, nice suits, and a nice salary. I realized on a Wednesday while doing corporate law review that this isn’t it. It happens all the time. I tell women stop shooting. Tell me what your ideal Wednesday looks like? It’s okay if you don’t want a PhD. If you don’t want to Master’s degree, that’s all right.
If you don’t want to be the manager, if you enjoy the work that you’re doing, it fulfills you and makes you feel proud of yourself, that’s okay. We’re so invalidating that our egos get stroked when someone’s like, “You’re so great. You should take this job. You should go do this. You should go get that degree. You should start this business.” It all becomes about pleasing everyone else so that people can feel okay about our ambition levels. It’s okay to sit with your list of non-negotiable and the type of Wednesday that you want to have. What’s a regular Wednesday for you? Let’s build a business and a career or a life around that.
Expand upon that, because I’ve often heard that it’s very true for women. What you’re saying though is that it’s also very true if not true for Latina women, if not women of color. Any thoughts about that?
For women of color, my perspective is that we have such a responsibility to be an example.
When you say women of color, you mean Latina, African-American, whatever that color is?
As I said, going back to Becoming by Michelle Obama. She referenced how being from the south side of Chicago, humble parents, her mom was an accountant or something, worked in an administrative office. She mostly stayed home until they were in high school. Her dad worked for the same engineering company for 27, 28 years before he retired. She came from very humble beginnings. She didn’t want to follow the statistics or didn’t want to fall behind. Her and her brother were determined to break the mold and be an example. For a lot of us who come from immigrant parents and they came here and didn’t have as much opportunity as we do, we feel this tremendous responsibility to push the community forward.
Do this so that we can show our little sisters, our little cousins, and other little girls everywhere that it gets possible. That’s wonderful and great, Gerry. After a while though, you can find yourself almost 40 and be like, “What have I been doing? This is not fun for me. I haven’t held any boundaries. I haven’t take a moment to think about what I want to do. What brings me joy?” Whenever women feel stuck that way, that’s when they call me and then it’s usually like, “I’m thinking about going back and getting another Master’s degree. I was always thinking about pursuing my PhD.” It’s always like, “I’m not enough. I need to go do something to show that I’m enough.” That’s the limiting belief that holds women back the most.
I remember when Marianne Williamson first introduced that whole idea years ago. I remember reading her book The Age of Miracles.
I don’t know any of her books. I know her from her work. I’ve watched her talks before but I didn’t know she was an author. That’s news to me. I have to pick up some of her books.
The other thing too that’s incredible about you, and I want to focus on Latina women, and I can say this as a person of color myself because I understand the dynamics that go along with that. You pointed to the problem that women in general deal with. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the phrase in the African-American culture which is, “When America catches a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” I’m wondering in the Latina market with those challenges, it’s even more pronounced which is even more of a motivation for you to come out there and do the fine work that you’re doing. Can you share about that?
We can talk about two different paradigms when it comes to career. It is talking to women about, not only understanding their worth as a woman of color and what they bring to the table concerning the loyal consumer background that they come from, but also being able to balance some of the strengths of Latina women rather than use them as some hindrance. I’ll use words in Spanish and then I’ll translate them. For example, we are known as being simpaticas. We’re very charismatic, warm people. We have confianza. We’re good about establishing relationships and building trust with people because of our charisma and our warmth. We come off in a very authentic way, engaging, and very charming.
Rather than be afraid of those things, be able to package them and slab some executive presence and emotional intelligence on top of that and you are good. You got your nice resume, your LinkedIn profile. You’re clear on your list of non-negotiables. You know what salary you deserve as we’ve researched it. You’re prepared to negotiate. You’ve got to get in there and not let your stature, the color of your skin, the accent you may have, none of that should matter. It doesn’t change your warmth, your charisma, and on top of that, the intelligence, the skill, and your personal brand statement that we help them develop. This way, it’s less about their color and it’s more about their character.
When it comes to the Healed Hijas stuff, it’s also engaging in conversations about mental health from a place of boundary setting. It’s more holistic. It’s like re-mothering type stuff, learning how to connect with your inner child, giving these lays and understanding of certain life coaching methods that’ll help them suffer less. That’s the goal, to suffer less. Meaning don’t be triggered by so many things. Develop a relationship with your mother that is in accordance with the way you want to be with her and the boundaries you want to set so that you can be the whole healed woman you need to be for yourself.
There’s also cyclical work there because when a Latina mother decides, “I’m breaking the chains, the cycle ends here and I’m going to do the conscious healing work for myself so that my daughters don’t take this on. I have to keep carry it. They get the whole healed conscious version of myself.” It’s beautiful work. It’s wonderful because I see the Latina culture doing other things about it too. There’s this hashtag right now called #EndChanclaCulture, the non-violent parenting because we were raised with the chancla. We got hit with the shoe or sandal all the time. When we got spanked when we were kids, our mom went to go get a chancla. Now there’s a whole movement out there about end chancla culture. It’s the movement to end violent discipline practices in the Latino community.
Who’s your primary audience? Is it working corporate Latino women in Corporate America or are they blue-collar? Are they independent professionals? Are they self-employed? Who is your core mark?
It’s mostly white collar executive women. I didn’t intend it this way. It’s just what the metrics show. When I look at my list of clients right now, it’s all women professionals, educated women, and women in high positions of influence individual markets. I have PhD professors that work in Academia. I have attorneys, some of them in private sector like media and another one in the Capitol Hill, the one I mentioned. Talent acquisition professionals and I also have media PR people that I work with as well. Women who do digital marketing, content, and PR initiatives for their organizations.
Latina Life Coaching: You don’t have to be pigeonholed into one thing. You can diversify your portfolio in a way that empowers you.
I do have a course though. For someone who isn’t at that level yet and they’re working their way up in their career, I do have an eight-week course that is a little bit better tailored to them. I also have women that have a corporate job, it’s going, it’s fine but they want a business on the side. They’re trying to scale the business, start a business, launch a passion project. I work with them in that regard as well.
Your sweet spot are the corporate women who want to break that glass ceiling. It sounds like they’re the ones that are rising up in Corporate America. Are these white-owned companies, I shouldn’t say that.
I don’t think so because we’re talking tech companies.
In other words, they are doggone good at what they do. Who owns the company? If it’s the middle-class, white guys in the boardroom, it doesn’t matter. They’re skilled, bright, and so brilliant. They are working their way up the ladder. That’s great.
Funnily enough, Gerry, some of these women have already done that. They have great jobs, amazing salaries, doing important work but yet there is something missing. They’re like, “I have it all together but why am I not happy?”
Is it tied in with the mommy issues, do you think?
It ties into mommy issues, daddy issues, unhealed trauma. Again, it all stems back to, “I can’t seem to advocate for myself.” You get tired so I go for it, “Do I get another promotion?” We’re rudderless sometimes and that makes ambitious women feel, who were told, “You need to get. You’ve got to go do this.” I credit my grandmother as being the one person in my life that from the moment I could remember, I was four. She would ask me, “What are you going to do when you grow up? How are you going to support yourself?”
For me particularly, I can’t say it for all of my Latina sisters, it wasn’t marriage and children was the expectation. It was like, “You have to get an education.” My grandma was like, “In the United States of America, education is the key to everything. You will be successful. You will be fine. You will be supported.” She didn’t want me to fall into the trap of being supported-maintained by a man and then have to suffer because I don’t know how to take care of myself. She’s had her own traumas and knew what it was like to have a man mistreat her because she couldn’t take care of herself. She’s like, “Figure out what you’re going to do, get educated, start the career, and get to work.”
She would ask me this all the time, “What are you going to do when you grow up? How are you going to take care of yourself? What kind of work are you going to do?” I always had to have an answer. There was no shrugging my shoulders like, “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.” “Excuse me? No, you need to have a plan.” My plan changed over time as I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought I wanted to be a news anchor and then I finally landed in business. My grandma pushed that in me. Sometimes, we don’t know when to stop. We’re constantly going, getting the next degree, getting the next promotion, doing the next thing.
I’m the same. I’ve had to stop myself. The minute I start to feel like I’m not doing enough, it’s like, “No, I’ve done enough.” It’s now about helping other people feel like they’ve done enough and being able to find balance, happiness, rest, and self-care. Even with a great important job, if you’re not happy and you’re not taking care of yourself or you’re not taking care of your family, eventually one shoe’s going to drop and you don’t want that to happen without a plan.
Is there anything else in terms of advice you can give to some of our audience in terms of, “This is what you have to do to accelerate what you are here to accomplish on the planet?” Any thoughts, any words of wisdom that you would love to give?
Stop listening to other people unless you are asking. Part of the emotional intelligence work that people do is learning social awareness. How are you perceived by other people? How do you impact other people? I love Iyanla Vanzant’s take on this because we’re not looking for people’s opinions. Everyone has an opinion. We’re looking for their experience. How do people experience you? When they’re around you, what do they feel about themselves? When they think of you, what do they know with total certainty that they can go to you for mentorship, guidance, accountability? What do you know and then you can do for hours and lose track of time?
That would be a great way for you to get in tune with your purpose. Quiet the voice internally and connect with that inner voice that tells you like, “This is what you should be doing.” When you ask, “When you’re around me, how do you feel? When you think of me, what are some of the things that you feel I’m good at?” Out of those things, which one of those brings you the most joy? That’s a great way to get clear on what you want to do and stop thinking about the should’s. It’s so interesting and it happens everywhere. In Academia, there’s this understanding that you always have to go get this, go get that, go apply here, do the thing, and write the grant.
After a while, if what you wanted to do is create a curriculum for K-12 students and underserved communities, although the shiny bright object over here with this important job and title at this major university sounds nice, it may not be in alignment with what you want to do and what you care about. That’s why I tell people think about what your average Wednesday would look like. What do you want that to look like? Walk me through the day. When you wake up in the morning, what do you do? When you get in your car and go to work, where are you driving to? Where are you sitting? Is it remote or you’re in an office? What are you doing? Who are you talking to? Talking about what? What are you spending your time doing that you lose track of time like, “It’s 2:00, I didn’t even eat lunch. That’s how excited I was about on what I was doing?” That is your purpose.
I tell you, your philosophy mirrors mine when it comes to personal branding because I always tell people build your brand around why you’re here. You’re here for a purpose. You’re here to accomplish something that has been sovereignly set aside for you to accomplish and only you are supposed to accomplish. Do what you were born to do and meant to do. Tap into your brilliance. Let your light shine above the rest.
That’s a great point because that’s another thing when people are starting to get into their purpose is it’s okay to get social proof. Seeing what other people are doing and like, “This is clearly a business model that I can build on my own and add my own unique spin onto the branding, marketing, approach, and whatnot.” It’s not a race really. It’s a journey. Be strategic, smart, ask for help. Be willing to do it scared. Be willing to do it wrong the first time. We all did everything wrong first. It was not like we got into marriage and knew exactly how to be married. It’s not like we got into college and knew exactly what to do day one. It’s not like we had kids and on the first day of being a parent, we knew exactly what to do. We had all the answers. That’s never the case. That’s the same thing with any purpose that you see that you need to do. Be willing to do it scared and do it wrong, and to learn as you go.
Latina Life Coaching: Even with a great job, if you’re not happy, you’re going to drop it eventually. You don’t want that to happen without a plan.
That’s a great way to end this fabulous interview. You are clearly a change-maker and an authority at what you do. You’re out there doing some incredible fabulous work. You are a walking, shining reflection of what you do for your clients and your students. This has been a real treat for me and to serve the market that you’re serving. I can’t imagine as other people like you’re doing what you do. You sound like a one of a kind, me only, standalone brand. When you and I connected, one of the main reasons I wanted you on my show was I was like, “I have never come across anyone to your knowledge that’s doing this.”
I’m involved in certain associations that are very Latina-driven. I have been on podcasts and worked with women who are Latina life coaches. They are also therapists, social workers, and things of that nature. I’m also a part of this group called LatinaVIDA. It’s a group of corporate women that the whole purpose is to elevate other young corporate women into positions of power and influence within their industries. They do conferences and stuff like that so I’m involved with that association as well. They’re all Latina women and they’re from different backgrounds, law, accounting, human resources, supply chain, media, government. They’ve created this association called LatinoVIDA that is geared towards helping companies create diversity and inclusive initiatives that will put more Latinas in positions.
Even if someone is a life coach going after the Latina women market, there’s only one Michelle Gomez because nobody can do it like her. Everyone, thank you. As I promised, I bring you nothing but the best of the best and Michelle Gomez is certainly one of a kind for sure.
My website is MichelleMGomez.com. I make sure I pay respect to my grandmother, Martha Michelle. My middle name is after her.