Maria Montero’s Hope for Latino Women

Maria Montero

On her mother’s side, Maria Montero’s ancestors are Irish and Italian – immigrants who overcame illiteracy and language barriers to work in Pennsylvania’s coal mines. On her father’s side, her ancestry is Peruvian. Diversity, she says, “is what makes America great.”

“Look at me. I’m a mix of several different ethnicities,” says Montero. “I’m the prototype of what the melting pot is. I look at the strength in being diverse because I bring so many perspectives and understandings. It makes you a whole person.”

Growing up in a Schuylkill County coal town, Montero learned the values of her ancestors – hard work, family devotion, faith and heritage. Today, she is an attorney who still lives in Schuylkill County, and in December 2011, she was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett as executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.

In those posts, she is a “one-woman show,” Montero says. With her high energy and passionate belief in empowering women and Latinos to build businesses and engage in civic affairs, she works with state and local offices to leverage her limited resources.

By partnering with a foundation to use its nonprofit status, for instance, she sought private funding and support for Latino- and women-owned businesses.

“Look at me. I’m a mix of several different ethnicities,” says Montero. “I’m the prototype of what the melting pot is. I look at the strength in being diverse because I bring so many perspectives and understandings. It makes you a whole person.”

“Even though the state funds may not be here, guess what – there are a lot of people in the private sector who really want Latinos to succeed,” she says. “That’s part of thinking outside the box. I’m not going to whine and be frustrated about what I can’t have, since that’s not an option. I ask, ‘What else is available?’”

Montero has worked professionally as an attorney in women’s compensation law and as a manager for Abbott Laboratories, but no matter where her career went, she says, “I always went back to what made me happy, which was women’s leadership and Latino issues.”

Weaving it all together has been her true passion for community service, which she first entered as coach for her son’s little league team, becoming the first woman to coach and win the Tamaqua Little League championship.

She was assistant chair for the Schuylkill County Republican Committee, co-founded the Lehigh Valley Power of Women Networking Initiative and served on the Allentown Puerto Rican Parade committee.

“Every generation has the potential to achieve and improve and advance,” says Montero. “That’s what I hope for Latinos. That’s what I hope for women.”

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