LA RED TIG Week: Latinx Evaluator Presence and Leadership by Lisa Aponte-Soto

¡Saludos! I am Lisa Aponte-Soto co-chair of the Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse (LA RED) TIG, AEA GEDI alumni, and National Program Deputy Director of RWJF New Connections at Equal Measure. This week LA RED highlights ways to advance the presence and leadership of Latinx evaluators and researchers in AEA to foster culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) theory and practice with a Latinx lens.

Latinx currently comprise 16% of the U.S. population and are projected to comprise one-third of Americans by 2050 (U.S. Census, 2010). Meeting the needs of a booming Latinx community calls for investing recruiting, training, and retaining a diverse workforce. Despite efforts to build a pipeline, Latinx continue to be underrepresented across the field of evaluation accounting for approximately 5% of AEA members.

What does it take to “become” a Latinx leader? Outside of the nature versus nurture paradigm, leadership takes courage. It also takes a high level of commitment and responsibility to represent an entire community when we take stock of the heterogeneity across the Latinx community. Culture plays a significant role in the leadership development of Latinx professionals. A value for collectivism and staying connected with community help establish strong partnerships, networks, and connections that enhance work productivity, program outcomes, and sociopolitical acumen. Bilingualism and biculturalism further enrich these contributions.

Gaps along the continuum of the Latinx leadership pipeline create a void in cultural understandings and empathy for Latinx issues; and, further perpetuate discord in the workplace and in communities served. It is necessary to continue to challenge hegemonic paradigms and explore critical race theory and LatCrit paradigms rooted in democratic principles of social justice and advocacy.

Another challenge for Latinx to move into positions of leadership lies in overcoming issues of discrimination, racism, isolation, and tokenism. Navigating a landscape different than your own can be intimidating, particularly if you lack visible leaders who look like you. Being grounded in your cultural identify, mentoring relationships, and a strong social network can mitigate these challenges.

Hot Tips for Emerging Leaders

  • Find a Mentor – Latinx senior leadership in AEA can serve as padrinos and madrinas (i.e., godparents) role models, mentors, coaches, and sponsors who are integral to the professional development of novice Latinx evaluators. Anyone can serve as a mentor as long as they are willing to invest in supporting emerging Latinx evaluators.
  • Join a Network – When Latinx enter leadership pathways accidentally, building social capital offers a valuable support system for career success. There are additional support networks and training opportunities available through the Latina Researchers Network.
  • Volunteer – Volunteering to chair a TIG, serving on an AEA committee, or running for board leadership can help expand your evaluator network while developing your leadership skills.
  • Seek Additional Training – AEA offers opportunities for emerging evaluators of color to acquire formal/experiential training including the Graduate Education Diversity Internship program and the Minority Serving Institution Fellowship.

LA RED is a space for evaluators working collaboratively with/for Latina/o communities regardless of their personal racial-ethnic background. To join the discourse, please email us at

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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