EC Spotlight: Meet Elsie LaCourt
Telling stories is one of the most powerful means of connection and communication between people and ideas. These stories are a way to convey the values that unite and celebrate the differences we respect. To close out Women’s History Month, we sat down with Regional Marketing Manager Elsie LaCourt to hear her story.
Whenever we talk about identity it's important to recognize it's not something you just turn off, it's just a part of who we are. Let's talk about how being Latina has shaped your work experience.
Coming from a household where my dad was the only person who worked – my mom was a stay-at-home mom – I saw how hard he worked. He instilled that work ethic in all of us – my siblings and me. He wanted to make sure that I knew because I was Latina, I would face barriers and would have to work twice as hard in the real world.
When I began my career at Compass Group in 2008, I took that drive and ethic and embraced this mentality of "don't say no." I volunteered for projects and stretched my skills and learned about other areas of the business beyond my own work to make sure I was seen as valuable.
But it was hard. The push for diversity in the workplace has made tremendous strides. However, there is still a consistent lack of representation at many corporate leadership tables. I didn't see anyone who looked like me on the corporate side of the business. I only saw people who looked like me in the kitchen and back of the house. I saw – my dad, my mom; I saw culture and family.
How does being Latina and being a Spanish-speaker effect your relationships at work?
My parents spoke very little English; Spanish was the only language we spoke at home; it was my first language. I was the doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher – everything you can think of – in our house when it came to translation. I was used to translating everything for my parents and family, which helped immensely at work.
When I'm in the business, I often connect with other Spanish-speaking associates; we immediately connect. The first question is always "where are you from"? I always giggle a little bit. Once we speak about where we are from and what novelas we are currently watching, we talk about how I grew my career on the corporate side of the business. I immediately become a helpful resource for them. Because they can identify with me, they trust me and ask for help. When people ask for help, I'm so happy to jump in. I know how hard it is to ask for help and how uncomfortable it is sometimes when you don't have that connection with someone who does not speak your language.
Helping team members that look like me, my mom or dad, makes me feel like I'm giving back to my community. I've been given this opportunity to see things from the corporate side, and I can translate that – literally and figuratively. It makes me feel special to have this skill set that I can use beyond my daily responsibilities.
Tell me more about starting Alianza Latina and how that's shaping your role on the Entrepreneurial Council.
I worked with Ray Mulligan and the FLIK Independent School Dining team. I was approached to host a meeting with Latino associates to discuss career growth at Flik. At our first meeting, we invited a local legislator as a speaker. He shared his story – he dropped out of high school, got his GED, and eventually made his way into local government. When I looked around the room, everyone was so excited and engaged. It was empowering to be with my peers – and to be able to give them the tools they need to help grow their careers - and it got the ball rolling. Following the meeting, several people came up to me and asked if we could do this again and how we can expand to other people in the company. It just took off.
From there, I was asked to serve as a member of FLIK's Diversity Inclusion Action Council (DIAC), and after a few years, I became co-chair for a few years. And then, I was presented with the opportunity to join the Entrepreneurial Council and really have my hand in making our organization a more equitable place for everyone.
What is your vision for your role on the Entrepreneurial Council?
It's nice to be a voice for the Latino voices – we have the largest representation among the associates here. I'm going to get emotional here because this is so important to me. My job is to amplify voices, give brown associates a chance to shine, get noticed by higher-ups and gain the professional development to grow their careers.
When I got promoted to my current role, my longtime colleague and friend, Chef Jerry Revron, who we lost to COVID-19, wrote me a beautiful letter saying how proud he was of me and my growth as a Latina. I realized I have an opportunity to grow myself and to help lift others with me.
Latinos want to be fully embraced and accepted for who they are without feeling like they have to play to certain ideal or persona. As with any group of people, we want to be able to celebrate our uniqueness without being viewed as someone who doesn't fit the corporate ideal. I hope that other Latino associates see me and say, "If she did it, I can do it."
I think about the advice my dad gave me, and I hope to create a place where other Latinos don't have to work extra hard to earn an equal space at the table. That working hard will be enough without having to work harder than others.
What advice do you have for anyone reading this?
To the Brown voices: there will be many mountains to move, but you can move them. There are people cheering you on and rooting for your success. You can do it, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
To anyone looking to be an ally: be more, be an activist. Use your influence to support others. It's more than acknowledging the need for equity but taking action. Think about how you grew your career and mentor others so they can do the same.
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