Latina researcher, Marlene Orozco shares the importance of data in demystifying misconceptions and biases about Latinas.
Dr. Marlene Orozco is the Principal Investigator and CEO of Stratified Insights, a Latina-owned research consulting firm that provides academic grade research solutions to organizations from research planning and design, data collection and analysis, to reports and presentations tailor-made for key stakeholders.
Recently, Marlene was a guest speaker at our third annual Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit last month where she shared key insights and data from the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship report.
We are honored to have the opportunity to share her amazing story with you today and how she is using her research to help demystify misconceptions about Latinas in business and entrepreneurship.
As mixed methods researcher by training, Marlene has over 250 hours of in-depth interview experience and quantitative expertise in big data. She holds a Ph.D in Sociology from Stanford University, a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a B.A. with honors in Sociology from Stanford.
Throughout her years of education training in the field of research, Marlene decided to use her research as a tool to make a real-world impact, especially for minority small business owners and entrepreneurs. Her research is guided by her passion for education and economic equity and exploring pathways of mobility for immigrants, women, and entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.
Marlene’s work has been featured extensively, appearing in over 100s of media outlets including Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Forbes, NBC News, CNN en Español, and Univision, among others. She is also the lead editor and co-author of an academic volume, Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship, and has written academic publications in peer-reviewed journals in addition to several industry reports and research briefs.
Additionally, Marlene’s tremendous skill and success has been recognized through various accolades such as being named 40 Under 40, Top Young Professionals by Silicon Valley Business Journal and presented the Stanford Community Impact Award by the Stanford Alumni Association.
Demystifying misconceptions about Latinas through data
It’s no secret that Latinas are often misrepresented, undervalued, and unappreciated in the professional world. Latinas are also the most underpaid group of women, making on average only 55 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-hispanic man. Latinas have to work harder than almost every other group just to get the same recognition and struggle to gain access to resources such as capital to grow their businesses. These unfair biases have an impact on the rate of success for Latinas and other minority groups. Many feel isolated and hopeless when they see themselves and people like them failing to advance in their professions.
This is why information and data is important. According to the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report, the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown 34% over the last 10 years compared to just 1% for all other small businesses. In fact, Latino-owned employer businesses are growing revenues at a faster rate than White-owned employer businesses. Moreover, much of the growth in the number of new businesses among Latinos has been driven by women. Latinas represent 40% of all Latino business owners and the number of Latina-led employer firms has grown 20% within the last five-year period.
When we asked Marlene what pushed her to launch her own research consulting firm, it was the desire to see her research have a real-world impact.
“In the middle of graduate school, I was starting to feel unfulfilled by the lack of real-world impact that my research was having,” she told Latinas in Business. “Through much of my rigorous, academic training in producing peer-reviewed publications, I found that this research would largely live within the ivory tower. I started my company in December 2019 to bridge academic research grade solutions to industry needs. My first major client was the National Association of Investment Companies, where I produced a white paper on the state of growth equity for minority businesses as part of an initiative supported by the Minority Business Development agency to aggregate billions of dollars of growth equity capital to invest in ethnically diverse and women-owned business enterprises.”
As a Latina, who appreciates the power of data, Marlene seeks opportunities to demystify misconceptions about Latinas’ contributions to society with hard facts.
“I thus have a strong philosophy that reminds me to document my small wins. This philosophy is to never assume your work speaks for itself,” she says. “While I pride myself in the outputs that I produce, it is important that we communicate the milestones and successes along the way. Being able to readily produce these metrics are critical in instilling confidence in your clients that you can get the job done but also keeps you encouraged about the work that you are doing.”
Along with her research work, Marlene provides coaches and provides expertise to reduce system-level bias facing women and people of color who are entrepreneurs, fund managers, or in the investment field through her position as a founding board member of CRESER Capital Fund and an Illumen Capital Ambassador.
“We cannot do this alone”
Marlene is a big believer in the power of community. As an entrepreneur, coach, and researcher she herself has experienced the immense benefits that come with being part of a community groups and networks.
“I have been very fortunate that I am tapped into an extensive entrepreneurial network at Stanford Graduate School of Business as I also lead research efforts at the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. I would encourage readers to get connected to community organizations and structured networks as these are key to scaling and growing your business,” Marlene advises. “My research has shown that you are more likely to come into contact with capital providers if you are part of an organizational network. As we experienced first-hand in the pandemic, information impacting small businesses changes very quickly from local ordinances to relief aid. Organizations such as chambers of commerce, trade associations, economic development centers, and nonprofits are able to synthesize and distill this information quickly. Get connected!”
Being part of a community of like-minded individuals will not only give you the support you need, but also allow you to be the inspiration for someone else. You never know who might be in your circle who is seeking your advice, expertise, and talent, so make those connections, reach out, and share your story!
“A couple of years ago, I was a keynote speaker at the 6th annual State of the Latino Community in Sonoma County hosted by Los Cien. The event included many sponsor tables put peppered throughout the ballroom were high school students engaging with these business leaders,” Marlene shares, recalling a moment where she was able to guide and empower a young student. “After I shared the latest trends on Latino entrepreneurship, a high school student bravely took to the mic and asked a question about how to scale her craft business. I was so moved by her courage and by the fact that I was able to play a small role in compelling her to share her story publicly. Motivating others through the power of data and my research encourages me to keep pushing my public scholarship.”
Communities and networks allow emerging entrepreneurs to access the resources and aid they need to grow and succeed in their ventures. However, knowing when to ask for help from your community and peers is an area where Marlene has seen women struggle. We often think success is being able to do it all for ourselves, but this can sometimes hold women back from achieving the full potential of their success.
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“I would encourage women to get started even before you think you are ready. There are numerous research studies that show that women, especially Latinas, hold themselves back on applying for a job or financing due to their gendered perceptions about qualifications,” says Marlene. “Know your worth, have confidence in yourself, and keep personal and professional support groups to turn to for advice and encouragement. This past year, in addition to navigating the complexities of the pandemic, I was finishing graduate school, publishing a book and articles, working full time, kick starting my business, and raising a toddler. Call on others for help as we cannot do this alone!”