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Although Anjelica Cazares spends a lot of time talking into a microphone, she doesn’t need it to be heard and make an impact advocating for Latina equal pay.
Anjelica – the co-founder, owner, and principal creative director at Big Oak Tree Media and Market Street Consultants, and host of the award-winning podcast, “If Not You, Then Who?” – uplifts the stories of national Latina leaders and actively advocates for Latina equality and prosperity.
Her most recent accomplishment was organizing and hosting the Latina Equal Pay Dinner, held in Houston, Texas, in December 2022.
The dinner brought together a diverse group of Latina leaders to make connections, discuss personal and professional journeys, and strategize ways to close the Latina pay gap.
But before she found her voice as a persistent Latina entrepreneur with a passion for stimulating positive community change, according to Anjelica, she was a “statistic.”
Early Life Adversity
Anjelica was born and raised in Houston and described her younger self as an at-risk youth. She simply “didn’t like school.”
As a result, she dropped out of high school, fell pregnant with her son, and had no intention of finishing her education.
But then she got a call from her old high school principal.
“I remember him calling me and saying, ‘Hey, are you going to finish your education?’ And I was like, what are you talking about? I’m too old. I’m already pregnant. I’m a statistic,” Anjelica explained.
Nevertheless, Anjelica completed her high school education credits at home with a tutor. After accomplishing that goal, she experienced a confidence boost.
Anjelica then began community college classes with a dream of becoming a journalist. “A communications specialist was my dream career,” she said.
But she hit more roadblocks.
After three years of taking college classes, Anjelica needed time to focus on her health.
Building a Career
Enter Juan Alanis, an experienced journalist and marketing and communications professional.
Throughout those years of health hardships, Anjelica and Juan became a couple and got married on February 14, 2010.
With Juan’s connections and experience in the media world, the adventurous couple eventually mustered up enough courage to become entrepreneurs.
In 2016, they started Big Oak Tree Media, a Houston- and Northwest Arkansas-based public relations and digital marketing firm.
“We didn’t have a business background, so we were just kind of winging a lot of what we were doing,” Anjelica said, recalling those early years of the business.
Although the couple’s business experience was lacking, they were not short of creative storytelling skills that soon landed them a variety of clients, including BlueCross Blue Shield of Texas, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Harris County.
At one point, they even contributed to a General Mills breakfast cereal commercial!
Despite Big Oak Tree Media’s success, both Anjelica and Juan felt another calling.
As proud Latinos, they couldn’t help but notice the lack of diversity in their profession. They were often the only people of color at media events and sometimes even the only Texans at national conferences.
They decided to embark on another entrepreneurship adventure and created Market Street Consultants in 2020.
This Houston-based creative digital agency has a special focus on “creating spaces for more diverse voices.” These voices can be heard via audio and video podcasts, TikTok videos, Instagram reels, and more.
“Big Oak Tree Media is our visible company with larger clients of which we provide tailored services,” Anjelica explained. “Market Street Consultants is our community-based company of which we provide a variety of services for small, community-based nonprofits.”
“If Not You, Then Who?”
During the development of Market Street Consultants, Anjelica recognized her desire for her own creative outlet.
She realized she wanted to start her own podcast.
When trying to come up with a topic, she would “always go back to the same thing” – her love for researching, reading, and learning.
In fact, Anjelica laughed about how much she enjoys reading doctoral dissertations.
“I love to read what topic they selected and feeling the passion they have for the subject,” Anjelica said. “I wanted that for myself and to share my passion with my listeners.”
With a goal of honest conversations to spur self-reflection, the podcast, “If Not You, Then Who?” was born in December 2020.
The podcast features primarily Latina guests and discusses professional development and entrepreneurship, while simultaneously highlighting the unique challenges and inequalities Latinas face, including in health, education, and finances.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Anjelica’s podcast is her Latina Leadership Series, in which she highlights the professional journeys of Latinas in various career paths.
It was through researching and interviewing Latina leaders for this segment of her podcast that Anjelica learned about the colossal Latina pay gap.
“Latinas continue to be underestimated, undervalued, and underpaid,” according to the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “Even now, Latinas, on average, earn only 54 cents for every dollar paid to a white non-Hispanic man, the lowest average of all race/ethnicity and gender groups.”
Shockingly, the wage gap has gotten worse over the years. In 2018, Latinas earned 57 cents for every dollar paid to white non-Latino men – three cents more than today’s statistics.
As Anjelica would learn, this pay disparity doesn’t just affect Latinas’ wallets – it also affects Latinas’ ability to pursue education, afford health insurance, build generational wealth, own a home, and more. The Latina pay gap contributes to a wealth of disparities – and it isn’t fair.
“The wage gap is affecting Latinas as a whole. We really need to create sustainable change,” Anjelica said.
The Latina Equal Pay Dinner
Learning about the injustices of the Latina pay gap left Anjelica hungry for change.
She began satiating her appetite by organizing a Latina Equal Pay Dinner in her hometown of Houston, which is a hotbed for Latina culture and entrepreneurship.
“I already had relationships with a lot of Latinas from my work on the podcast,” Anjelica explained. “I thought, ‘How can I get them together so we can start having conversations within each other? How do we start paving a path for sustainable change?’”
Through community partnerships and support from Juan and her team of Latina coworkers, Anjelica organized, coordinated, and hosted Houston’s first Latina Equal Pay Dinner on Dec. 8, 2022 (the same day as Latina Equal Pay Day 2022).
The dinner was full of meaningful conversations that spurred connections and collaborations among Houston’s most passionate, career-driven Latinas.
The professional challenges that Latinas face, and how these inequalities contribute to unequal pay, was a key topic of conversation.
“If we don’t have the hard conversation, if we are not honest with each other about what we are going through or have gone through, how can we avoid continuing to accept the injustice in front of us here tonight?” said co-host Ada Ortega, director of public affairs for Coca-Cola, at the dinner.
“We didn’t have surface-level conversations,” Anjelica said. “It was real conversations where Latinas planned on involving themselves in creating change, like creating a policy in their workplace to address unequal pay.”
As Anjelica hoped, these small waves of honest conversation led to an even bigger impact.
The dinner served as a kick-start for more potential discussion and collaboration events in 2023, like lunch events to help Latinas build stronger professional networks.
“If there is one thing, I personally would want for us to walk away with, it is with the understanding that the most vulnerable parts of ourselves can lead to tremendous growth and also touch others in ways that we may never know,” Anjelica told Tejano Nation.
Creating Sustainable Change
Anjelica’s passion for uplifting and supporting other Latinas and advocating for equality has earned her some recognition.
Her podcast, which has over 70,000 downloads, was recently awarded the 2022 Podcast of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America Houston Chapter.
Additionally, the city of Houston granted Anjelica a proclamation in recognition of Latina Entrepreneurship Day every October 13 during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Winning awards and creating proclamations further contributes to raising awareness of the issues Latinas face,” Anjelica said. “The hard work is paying off. But it’s not just my hard work – it’s the hard work of my team.”
In 2023 and beyond, Anjelica hopes to shed light on other important topics in her Latina Leadership Series, including challenges in Latina education and mental health.
After her son finishes college, Anjelica is also interested in getting her bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications.
“At this point, I really want to complete the degree to show myself that I can do it,” Anjelica said. “It’s just something I’d like to do.”
But in the meantime, Anjelica will continue focusing her efforts on closing the Latina pay gap and creating more professional collaboration opportunities for Latinas.
From humble beginnings, Anjelica has made a name for herself as a change-agent in Houston’s Latina community.
Although she’s already made impressive progress, she hopes to achieve much more, and maybe even have an iconic “mic drop” moment, in which she finally sees Latinas being recognized for their full potential.
“It’s time for us as Latinas to step into our own innate ability to lead without second-guessing ourselves,” Anjelica said.
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This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.