COLORADO, USA — Elizabeth Suarez worked in the corporate world for 15 years. After holding countless leadership positions throughout the U.S. and Central and South America, she not only has extensive insight into a male-dominated industry, but according to Suarez, it also made her realize that more women were needed at the executive table.
"I would say I lived a syndrome of me, myself, and I. There was no other Latina; there was no other woman," Suarez said. "When I decided to retire from the corporate world, that's when I realized that what we had to do was basically be better negotiators to be able to be in meetings where people make decisions, the problem, many women, we – Latinas are not present where decisions are being made."
Remembering all those years in the industry takes Suarez back in time to where her dreams began.
"I started out as this girl who wanted to make a difference in the corporate world," Suarez said. "I grew up in Puerto Rico, I am of Cuban parents, I went to the university in New York as well as [got] my master's degree, and I was in the corporate world everywhere."
Today, Suarez lives in Denver, she is an author, and a coach and a leadership and negotiating strategist. Suarez empowers professionals to obtain more money and recognition, while helping organizations to develop a stronger workforce.
Suarez credits a big part of her success as an entrepreneur to the people who helped push her to take the plunge.
"I have to admit it, I had a lot of people who helped me and who believed in me," said Suarez. "I had many mentors who believed in me and even today they follow me and want to help me."
Since then, paying it forward has always been one of Suarez's mottos as she remembered that her mentors told her, "Hey, remember that you have to help others in your community. This is not just about you. This is about your community."
So following in their footsteps, Suarez became a mentor of young women and after mentoring for a few years, she came to another important realization.
According to Suarez, it's difficult for many women to advocate for themselves.
"I always say to people that culturally we have always been told that we have to be grateful – grateful for living, grateful for our health, grateful for our work. And what I'm saying is that, yes, that is important, but at the same time, we have to be able to communicate to other people that we deserve the salary, that we deserve the promotion because we have brought a lot of progress to the company," Suarez said.
Being a good negotiator, according to Suarez, is being able to be someone who can listen to what the other person is saying. One who can understand the needs of the other person and at the same time, can communicate effectively so that the other person can understand his or her needs.
"This is not about winning everything you want; this is being able to identify a solution that will be a good thing for both people," Suarez said.
Suarez has a daughter in college and she gives her the same advice that she gives all young women.
"You cannot assume that if they offer you the job that that's it. I accept it, it's over, I'm going to party, no no no," Suarez said.
According to Suarez, women need to take it upon themselves to do a thorough investigation of the going salary for the position that they are applying for.
"There are different ways to find out. There are different apps that tell you this. The average salary of the type of job where you are living, and you have to have the strength to say, 'This is a competition; we are playing a game. I play, and even though they offered me the job, I'm going to have to ask for more,'" she said.
Suarez encourages women to negotiate in the same manner as men do because, according to her, "Study after study shows that men always ask for more than women."
"From the beginning, you have to negotiate more," Suarez said, "and if they tell you that they cannot give you more money, negotiate more things. Free days, bonuses – agree to re-analyze your work in six months, and from there you can get another raise."
Suarez is the author of the book 'The Art of Getting Everything,' and she has been has a keynote speaker at women's conferences across the country, including the Women in Technology Conference where she spoke to over 650 women about the power of negotiation, networking and self advocacy.
She also launched Negotiation Unleashed a coaching, training, and facilitation resource for professionals and executives.
"For the next five years, if I can see more Latinos and Latinas in positions of power in the world, not only in government, but in the world of entrepreneurs as well as in the world of education, that's when I say we're making a difference and that's what I'm focusing on."
RELATED: 'Escaramuza,' the all-female horseback riding sport, is a Mexican tradition that lives on in Colorado
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Latest from 9NEWS