This year’s Billboard Latin Conference agenda was clear: highlight the success of women. Though you will find a lot of big female artists in mainstream catalogs, they aren’t as visible in the Latin world. Working in the Latin America division, this is something that has peaked my curiosity. There definitely are talented women out there, so why aren’t we programming them? Billboard’s very own leading lady, Executive Director Leila Cobo welcomed the audience to the 24th year of the most important Latin music industry event prepared with a few panels that answered just that.

First, we were presented with a panel featuring bold female artists, both new and legendary, which are changing the sound, look, and symbol of women in music. Contemporary singers Kany Garcia, Carla Morrison, and America Sierra, accompanied the trans-generational Olga Tañon as they shared anecdotes from the early stages of their career. What was most interesting was that even through the generational gap between Olga and the girls, they all had one factor in common: they stayed true to themselves; they always said no when they felt it something wasn’t for them, regardless of what the mainstream suggested. Olga learned to sing by practicing on the roof in the middle of the night even though her voice is not at all a dainty feminine voice; Kany practiced the cello and guitar to learn melodies when told she could not sing. Neither gave up their dream, but instead achieved their goals through pure discipline and determination.

The emphasis on the quiet female dominance in the Latin industry culminated with an interview with Gloria Estefan, where she divulged some secrets to her success. Being in the industry since the mid 70s, Gloria has perfected the art of handling both the music and business sides of the industry. So much so, that she is currently working on developing a Broadway autobiography from her start in Miami Sound Machine to her upcoming standards album, due this fall.

Not only have these remarkable women etched their way into the industry, they have also proven they are forces to be reckoned with. They can be heard on our Latin Hits, Romancero, La Musica or Puro Amor channels among their male counterparts who join them on the Billboard charts. Not to mention, we will be able to program Gloria Estefan’s upcoming standards and Broadway tracks into Anglo channels in both Lounge and Adult Contemporary styles. Even more, all these ladies are proud to say their videos are family friendly and suitable to mixed atmospheres.

– Submitted by Pam Payano, Marketing – Latin America