Latina Professionals of Chattanooga is aimed at advancing the leadership and success of Latina professionals across all industries. (Photo: Contributed)

What started as a single Facebook group has morphed into an organization aimed at empowering Latina women in Chattanooga.

Local resident Jocelyn Loza created the page for Latina Professionals of Chattanooga in January, and after a few hours, she saw there was strong interest.

“I founded [the organization] to help Latinas advance by providing access to, and support from, other Latina professionals working in all industries by developing relationships with organizations who support the advancement of minorities in Chattanooga,” she said via email.

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There’s no fee to join, and Loza said she plans to keep it that way. Professional development workshops and networking events are also free thanks to support from the community, she said.

This Wednesday, the organization is hosting an event aimed at debunking misconceptions about the culture.

“Every culture comes with its own challenges and stereotypes and Latinos are no exception,” Loza said. “This Wednesday, we will be focusing on the Latina professionals, honoring these strong women and [clarifying] these misconceptions.”

The event will feature five local leaders, who will discuss the difficulties they’ve faced as Latina women in the workplace. And they will address misconceptions and share ideas for solutions.

When asked about why she started the organization, Loza also pointed to statistics.

In 2016, there were 11.4 million Hispanic women in the civilian workforce. That’s one in seven or 7.2 percent of the total labor force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

One in three Latinas in 2016 worked in service occupations, but managerial and professional occupations have had the greatest increase of Hispanic women representation since 2000, also according to the Department of Labor.

Loza also wanted to inspire women reach their full potential, she said.

“The support we are receiving is inspiring and many are very interested in our initiative,” she said. “I personally want to thank all who believe in our mission…And if you believe this, we need you. We need more energetic, spirited and motivated individuals.”

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