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Brittney Castro, woman in finance

How Latina entrepreneur Brittney Castro built a career on femininity in a male-dominated industry

Brittney Castro is a Certified Financial Planner and is a leading speaker, host, and brand ambassador who has worked alongside top brands like Chase, Mint, ETrade, CNBC, Gemini, AirBnB, Zoom, Altruist, Refinery29, and more to promote financial literacy. Today she shares her journey as a woman in finance and how she leveraged her femininity to build her career in a male-dominated industry. 

Hustling, role models, and growing a business

Brittney Castro, Certified Financial Planner, speaker, host, and brand ambassador. (Photo courtesy of Brittney Castro)

At the age of 22, Brittney began her career as a financial advisor straight out of college and by 28 launched her own business, Financially Wise Inc. Over those 15 years, she worked with thousands of clients on their financial journeys. In 2020, she sold her private practice to focus full time on speaking, content creation, and brand partnerships. She now also offers coaching services to help other financial advisors do what she did and grow their businesses online through social media, get paid speaking sponsorships, and market in a modern way. 

“A lot of times people are very knowledgeable in the financial world, but they really just don’t know how to market or do video creation that educates and inspires people. So that is my sweet spot. I think that’s where I operate the best,” said Brittney during the March 25th virtual panel, Latinas & Success: What It Takes to Make It in America.

Speaking on her journey as an entrepreneur and where she is now, Brittney said she is excited to have reached where she is now, where she gets to do what she loves. 

“It wasn’t always that way, you know, we have to hustle to put in a lot of hours and time and do things we don’t necessarily love. So I’m very blessed and grateful to be here now.” 

Brittney shared the struggles she faced growing her business at a young age in a male-dominated industry. Being “real” she said candidly, “It’s not easy. I self-funded my business. I wish I would have been a little bit more creative in the beginning and maybe got some sort of loan but I didn’t.”

She had to figure out her own path forward and learned a lot from her experiences as a new entrepreneur. Now she tells people not to shy away from funding and “go get that money!” 

“You just have to kind of figure out, are you going to self fund? Are you going to get angel investors, or a small business loan? Every Avenue takes work effort, you’ll probably get denied. So you have to have that kind of persistence. Stay resilient. There’s so many creative resources, you just have to find the right one for you.”

“I don’t really think there’s a destination because I’m just working every day on making myself better.” (Photo courtesy of Brittney Castro)

Another key lesson Brittney learned throughout her career is to embrace change and always be in “flow.” For Brittney, there is no end goal marker of success. She is constantly learning, growing, and evolving. 

“People would ask me years ago, ‘What does it feel like to have made it?’ And that’s a weird question to me because, yeah, you have success, and I think it’s very good to celebrate, I’m not saying not to embrace it and celebrate it. But I don’t really think there’s a destination because I’m just working every day on making myself better.”

Part of that growth mindset comes from mentors. Early on, as Brittney was first establishing her own company, she began to build her network and learn from others who were already doing what she wanted to do. 

“I would find women-focused events to go to, and I would just look at other women business owners, and I thought, ‘Okay, they, they’re doing it, I could do it too.’ But I also read a lot of books. I think that’s the power of mentorship, it doesn’t have to be physical in person, you can learn a lot from other people’s stories. And now we have YouTube or you know, social media, where you hear people’s inspiring stories through video.”

As Brittney read and connected with other women entrepreneurs, she was inspired and pushed forward along her own path. Those mentor figures really helped solidify the belief that she too could build her own business as a woman in finance. 

Watch the full panel below

Embracing femininity in a male-dominated industry

When Brittney began her career as a young woman in finance she faced pressures to change herself and downplay her feminine side. Navigating her space in this male-dominated industry was difficult as a 22 year old fresh out of college. 

“When I was just starting I would try to look like a man more. I would wear all black, I remember I’d put my hair so tight and a bun just so people would take me seriously. And it made me sick health wise, I was just always rundown and sick because I was trying to imitate someone else, instead of just being me, a woman in finance and leveraging my feminine power and strengths,” said Brittney. 

“Now I just think it’s so beautiful to be a woman in finance, like, do it my own way, create my business my own way.” (Photo courtesy of Brittney Castro)

Eventually she learned to fully embrace her identity not just as a woman but also culturally as a Latina in the industry and leveraged her identity as her niche when she launched her first business. 

Her manager at her first firm criticized this move to market her business specifically toward women, stating that it would be “stupid” to miss out on half the population. 

Brittney, however, knew there was a market for financial services catered toward women. 

“Every woman I talked to doesn’t relate to the financial industry, and I’m in the financial industry, and I don’t relate to any of these things and how they talk about money. So I literally built my first you know, company, Financially Wise Women with the focus of helping women and it was like, almost girly, in a way the color palette. I would dress more like feminine. I was just more me basically.” 

You might be interested: Latina tech entrepreneur Paola Santana owns her CEO title in a male-dominated industry

After fully embracing her femininity and focusing on helping women in finance, Brittney’s confidence grew and the success started to come and finally she felt like she didn’t have to be anybody other than herself. 

“Now I just think it’s so beautiful to be a woman in finance, like, do it my own way, create my business my own way.” 

Brittney finds that staying true to herself and not worrying about competition has worked best for her in her career thus far and she encourages other women entrepreneurs and professionals to stay true to themselves and not worry about what others are doing. 

“I just put my filters on and put my head down and work, I don’t really pay attention to what a lot of the people are doing in the financial world. That always works well for me, you know, because then I’m happier. And it attracts the right things into my circle.”

Latina tech entrepreneur Paola Santana owns her CEO title in a male-dominated industry

Paola Santana is a lawyer, public procurement expert, and Latina tech entrepreneur, creating the next breakthrough in government systems. 

She’s the founder and CEO of Social Glass, a government software ecosystem using artificial intelligence and exponential technologies to digitize, streamline, and scale public procurement systems and processes, and enable better decision-making in the public sector across the United States and Latin America.

Best known for her ability to create things from scratch at the intersection of the public, private and regulatory domains, and for her track record of introducing cutting-edge technologies into highly-regulated markets, her most recent experience includes co-drafting the public-private partnership enabling the first multi-state Hyperloop system in the United States. 

Previously, she co-founded Matternet, a Silicon Valley company pioneering drone logistics networks. Under her leadership, Matternet engaged with The White House, US Congress, FAA, and NASA to enact the first drone regulation in the United States in 2016, and became the world’s first drone delivery platform authorized for permanent operations over a populated city in 2017.

In addition to her entrepreneurial ventures, Paola currently serves as Faculty at Singularity University and Mentor for the Social Entrepreneurship Labs Incubator at Stanford University and Google AI.

Latinas in Male-Dominated Industries: Who’s the Boss?

Last month, Paola shared her experience of being a Latina entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry during the 4th National Conversation with Latina Leaders: Latinas & Success

Latina tech entrepreneur

Paola Santana, Latina tech entrepreneur and CEO of Social Glass. (Photo courtesy of Paola Santana)

Traditionally, male-dominated industries and occupations are particularly vulnerable to reinforcing harmful stereotypes and creating unfavorable environments that make it even more difficult for women to excel. Despite these struggles, Paola was able to overcome those stereotypes and achieve success as a Latina entrepreneur in the tech industry. 

“It’s very hard to see where you can get when you don’t see someone like you doing those things,” Paola says. 

Paola began her career as a lawyer but branched off into the world of government and tech so she could pursue her desire of creating change and opportunities globally. 

In her twelve years within these male-dominated industries, Paola has seen and experienced firsthand the obstacles women face. 

One recurring struggle is that many women are not given credit for their work or given the appropriate titles. Many times women themselves will underplay their roles and their value in male-dominated industries. 

Other times, women are inventing new roles, navigating uncharted territories, and breaking barriers without owning their positions. 

“Every woman that is running anything from their little business in their brain, is just like, ‘Oh, this is my side business.’ Like, No, you’re the CEO of that business. That’s number one,” said Paola. “So to every woman out there that doesn’t feel like they’re running something, just own your title. You are the CEO of that thing that you’re running day to day, whether that’s a project internally in a big corporation, or that’s your own business.” 

This Latina tech entrepreneur recounted her early career in law in the Dominican Republic and how she learned to own her title as a founder and entrepreneur. 

“I used to work at the National Elections Court in the Dominican Republic. I co-created the first Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic from scratch.” Still, she struggled to own her title at the time. Once she gave a name to her position and realized she was creating something new, she began to really see the path of her career open up before her. 

It’s hard to see where you can go when you are the first one doing it in your industry or there aren’t others like you to look up to. 

“You’re going to be uncomfortable, but you’re creating a new vision for what that role can be for you and for many people behind you,” said Paola. 

“So I do believe that is important to yes, inspire others, but also to tell others, you know what you’re doing, nobody has done it. So you need to duel the pros and cons. You’re a little bit alone, but at the same time, that means you don’t have to fit into anybody’s mold because you’re a whole new category of something. And I feel like that’s how I’ve carved my way into what I’m doing right now.”

Watch the full panel below

We need to have diverse people at the table

Diversity and representation across all industries are important and crucial. Sometimes, you may not be working in a male-dominated industry but you could be in an industry that was shaped or designed by men. 

Paola touches on this issue as well. “You feel out of touch or out of many things because this industry was not created to embrace you or to even embrace who you are or how you think,” she said. 

“So my perception is that you would always feel uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable—while not something you should embrace all the time—is an outcome of growing and going into places where nobody has been there before you. And that means creating larger tables. I tell everybody, investors, and people that work with me, I tell them: What’s the point? How can you create global products, if you don’t have a global team? And a global team means that you need to have diverse people at the table.” 

Leaders and pioneers of the industry need to prioritize these issues and create those larger tables that give everyone a seat. 

As a leader, mentor, and Latina tech entrepreneur, Paola Santana is working to make room at the table for more women like her and others who have been overlooked before. Through conversation and action, we can bring together Latinas and minority women and open doors for greater opportunities across all industries. 

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2021 WEES Speaker Maria Piastre: A Latina leader excels in a male-dominated industry 

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre was appointed Metallix Refining Inc. President. Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President.

The 2021 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit motto is THRIVE! with our panels and workshops focusing on key areas of growth to connect and empower women business owners and give them the tools and insights to propel forward and thrive post-COVID19. 

Our women’s panel,THRIVE! Women Turning Adversity into Success”, will feature guest speakers: Maria Piastre, Marvina Robinson, and Jessie Gabriel as they share insights learned on their journey to success while fighting the odds of being a woman and reinventing themselves during the pandemic. Below, Maria shares her story with us of how she rose through the ranks and excelled in a male-dominated industry as a Latina, eventually becoming company CE

 

“The leap of faith never fails”

Maria Piastre was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. She came to the USA in 2000, the start of a new millennium, one that would unveil marriage, a young family, graduation, and professional achievements in business. 

woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre

Maria Piastre, President of Metallix Refining Inc.

As her career path was still uncharted, Maria’s tenacity for success and recognition would prove to be her armor against the many inequalities she would encounter. Later these inequalities would form the foundation for future campaigns.

Maria graduated from Kean University in 2004 with a degree in Economics thanks to the unconditional support of her family.  She then entered the world of business and commerce. Over the next two years, the motivated Latina immigrant excelled in business management, marketing strategy, aesthetic value, with an aptitude for communication at all levels. 

With the end of 2005 insight, Maria reflected on both her achievements and looked towards new challenges that would be more aligned with her goals and those of the organization she would represent. This new chapter of discovery would lead Maria to Metallix and a career in the male-dominated industry of precious metals where her future would soon unfold and be a platform for success.

“Facing new challenges can often be very daunting and come with their own set of risks but taken intelligently, they will open doors to countless possibilities where the rewards can be high,” Maria asserts. 

And she continues, “The leap of faith never fails because you learn something valuable about your decision and the events in your life, bringing growth and confidence.  Survival makes you strong and it is an understanding of failure that makes you realize this is not the end of the line, but just the beginning of a new chapter.” 

Achieving success as a woman in a male-dominated industry

In 2006 Metallix Refining Inc., a precious metals recycling company in New Jersey, announced they were recruiting for an inside sales position to cover Latin America. 

Maria, a native Spanish speaker, fluent in English with a background in sales and marketing, applied for the opening and received an interview offer from Eric Leiner, owner and then President.

For any profession, being prepared for whatever situation you face is crucial; it is a professional obligation to your colleagues and suppliers to answer their questions fully and present them with the best, most relevant, and actionable recommendation.

Maria applied the same professional approach to the Metallix interview. Reading precious metals and refining trade magazines, researching product supply to the industry from gold-plated connectors to solar industry production, all of which made for credibility and confidence during the interview process and responses.

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria during her tour of Asia meeting with our Technical Director Claudio Ferrini and the General Manager of Metallix Refining Asia Mr. SB Sangbae Kim. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

There is always a voice of doubt and moments of anxiousness when you want something which is almost in touching distance, and for Maria, this was no exception. 

However, instead of a second interview, she received a job offer. The strategy had worked, and Eric Leiner was thrilled when Maria accepted.

The best place to work is the place you can be at your best and this was true for Maria.  Maria started to learn the business and soon fell in love with her job and became fascinated by the industry. 

With increasing industry knowledge and eagerness to grow within the company, Maria assumed additional responsibility bringing in new business, developing good relationships with industry partners and leading the way for improvements within Metallix.

In 2007, following the birth of her second son, Maria took a short career break from Metallix.  In a competitive and male-dominated industry time away can often result in missing significant opportunities.  “The progressive mindset of Metallix and their appreciation for my professional achievements and value to the company, secured my time away from the industry – a luxury many working mothers do not enjoy. I will always be grateful for such important consideration to my family,” Maria explained.   

Upon her return, she continued to achieve recognition within Metallix, taking on significant responsibilities assigned by Lerner.  

“The only limits are those you set yourself”

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre  was appointed company President.  Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President. This was both a pleasant shock and honor. 

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria interacts with every member of the Metallix Team, making an effort to engage with every employee on her many frequent visits to the Refinery. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

The sense of humility that Maria brings to the position transcends not just gender but embraces a new generation of values, of learning and reward based on individual merit, with the only limits being those you set yourself.

“As an immigrant to the US, I know only too well the challenges we all will encounter, especially for minority groups. The road will not always be smooth, and regardless of your cultural background, you should believe in yourself, your self-worth, your ability to succeed and that your qualities will always shine through to achieve rewards,” Maria advises Latinas in Business readers. This ethos is ingrained in Maria’s leadership.

One of the most important responsibilities as President was to establish a vision, a long-term mission with short-term objectives.  These will ultimately determine the expectations for the company’s culture and core values that will lead Metallix at multiple levels ensuring alignment throughout. Equally, recruiting talent and nurturing Executive growth for succession planning is key to building sustainability and industry expertise.  

Now guardian of a prestigious and respected precious metals recycling company, with locations in New Jersey, Greenville, and Maxton, North Carolina, the pattern of reinvestment and growth is set to continue. 

In 2019 the company embarked on a significant expansion program establishing Metallix Refining Asia Ltd in South Korean and Metallix Refining Europe Ltd based in the UK. 

These two new facilities secured the recruitment of the industry’s most experienced and respected personnel, opening up new and untapped revenue sources to add to the diverse industries already served by Metallix.

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Evolving with the times

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria has witnessed and experienced many changes over the last 12 years and has been influential to many changes herself. Through Maria’s values, Metallix is a multicultural employer with promotions based on ability, not gender, and an environment where there is no place for discrimination or bullying. 

As 2020 has seen the impact of COVID-19 on businesses globally, Metallix has been no exception. 

Maria at the Precious Metals Refining meeting the Metallix Trucks arriving back to the Refinery (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

“Business models once tried and tested no longer applied, and the way to survive and grow in this new economic market would be through technology, Maria said.”Metallix has always made a significant investment in equipment and applied sciences resulting in the Metallix Precious Metals Refinery becoming a world-class facility. We now needed to apply the same approach to sales and communication,” Maria explained. 

In addition to travel and face-to-face meetings no longer possible, video conferencing and social media platforms have been tools in which to maintain stability in the supply chain.  Metallix has an experienced team of buyers providing materials management guidance and support, managing social risks to protect our employees, suppliers, and the community. 

Under Maria’s leadership, Metallix Refining Inc. strives to provide exceptional customer service with world-class facilities that continue to achieve excellence for our customers.