Atmosphere

Powerbrokers-Ladies Who Launch

How four Denver Latinas are breaking into the old boys' network.

By
April 2008

Every Friday morning for the past 15 years, a select group of Latina powerbrokers has met for coffee to talk politics, marriage, and careers. The informal alliance—founded by the four civic and business leaders mentioned below—provides mentorship and networking for the next generation of Latinas. Their efforts have helped place their protégées in positions of influence in the mayor's office, and on various local boards and commissions. "Some women who have been successful in their careers look at other women and say, 'I fought hard to get here, you can fight, too,'" says Denise Maes, an attorney with Berenbaum Weinshienk & Eason. "Our attitude is different. We say, 'We fought hard so you won't have to.'"

Michelle Lucero, the vice president of employee relations at Centura Health, takes pride in that spirit. "One thing my mother taught me was that when you make it—whatever that 'make it' is—you reach back and pull someone up with you. In this group, we live that ethic daily." Rosemary Rodriguez, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, says such an outlook is crucial for women of color. "Mayor Webb used to say, 'If I walked on water, critics would say I couldn't swim,'" she says. "Sometimes Latinas, too, are scrutinized unfairly. I'll do whatever it takes not to drown."

1. Rosemary Rodriguez
Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Career highlights

  • Denver Clerk and Recorder, appointed by Mayor Wellington Webb
  • Former Denver City Council member, District 3

2. Ledy Garcia-Eckstein
Senior Policy Analyst, Denver's Office of Economic Development; Executive Director of Metro Denver WIRED Initiative
Career highlights

  • Working on Colorado Governor Roy Romer's policy staff
  • Board VP of Insight Center for Community Economic Development

3. Denise Maes
Shareholder at Berenbaum Weinshienk & Eason law firm, specializing in environmental law and land-use regulation and litigation
Career highlights

  • First woman to serve as president of the Denver Water Board
  • Chair of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

4. Michelle Lucero
Vice President of Employee Relations, Centura Health
Career highlights

  • Denver Deputy City Attorney
  • Board of trustees member of Metropolitan State College of Denver
  • Past president of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association