NEA Women in Business: Gina Gomez

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Class of 2019 Women in Business Gina Gomez Executive Director El Centro Hispano, Jonesboro

Residence: Jonesboro
Education: Bachelor of Psychology, La Sabana University, Bogotá, Colombia.
Professional background: As the executive director of the El Centro Hispano (The Hispanic Center), Gomez and the center provide community leadership that improves quality of life and supports youth enrichment for Hispanics in the region.

What inspired you to pursue the career you are in? I always wanted a career that would allow me to help improve the quality of life in my community. I can definitely say that the experience of coming to a new country — and all the struggles my family and I experienced in the process — gave me the certainty that my place was here, supporting my community and being a voice for the people who for many reasons cannot or do not feel confident expressing their opinions and needs.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far? Opening our brand new facility in Jonesboro. This building means so much to me, largely because it was the result of a community effort. It is the product of long-lasting relationships and partnerships with so many individuals and businesses in the public and private sectors. It confirmed that they recognized the importance of our mission. The positive response and the support of so many people and seeing our community united with the desire to improve the lives of Hispanics in the area made me feel that all our efforts, all the hard times and difficult situations were worth it.

We have been able to build a unique model in the state that exemplifies how to build opportunities by working together. Seeing the positive impact of our services and programs on so many people is the reward of my career choice.

What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? Funding is always a challenge when working in the nonprofit sector. I am working with my team and our board of directors toward achieving the goal of making El Centro Hispano a financially stable organization and continue to expand our brand. At the personal level, I will keep trying to pursue my dream of more family time, less work.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? Working in the nonprofit sector definitely requires a deep passion. For a medium-sized nonprofit, you’re not here for the financial benefit. I am fine, but the money will not keep you engaged and motivated every day.

There are significant times of frustration and failure, but you have to believe in yourself and never give up. You need to recognize your errors, your weaknesses, and learn from your failures. Teamwork, networking and partnerships are vital in this industry. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always be grateful.

Do you feel like we’re getting closer to gender equality in the workplace? I think there are still a lot of gender disparities when it comes to equality in the workplace; however, I think that in the nonprofit sector, women are well-positioned. Still, I prefer to be recognized and valued for the work I do, and for the impact that my work is having in other peoples’ lives than for the fact that I am a woman in the workplace.

What is something unique people would be surprised to know about you? I am a proud, naturalized U.S citizen who was born in Colombia. A very proud Latina, grateful for the opportunities given to me and my family in this wonderful country. Growing up, I never thought about living here, but I thank God every day for putting me in such a great country. Even with our problems and issues, this is the best place, by far, that fate could have placed me.

If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it? Travel around the different continents, attend the soccer World Cup in Qatar, and devote a year on a mission trip in a developing country.