Celebrating our 12 Leaders of 2021

As another year comes to a close we at Latinas in Business look back on the inspiring stories of our 2021 Leaders. Each month of the year we have featured one woman leader from our Latinas in Business community who is inspiring, pushing boundaries, and setting leadership examples. 

Each one of these women has shared with us their wisdom and their journeys, showing us that success does not happen overnight; it’s often a bumpy road, but with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.  

See below to learn a little bit about each of our 2021 Leaders and check out their individual feature articles to read their whole stories and learn from their journeys as entrepreneurs, business owners, and career driven women. 

Latina Leader

Leader of January: Claudia Vazquez 

In January, Claudia Vazquez shared her career journey with us. As a bilingual and bicultural Latina Leader with over 20 years experience in the insurance and benefits industry, her work is dedicated to diversity and inclusion, education, and uplifting the voices of women and Hispanics in the marketplace. Currently she serves as a Director of Product Management within Prudential’s Group Insurance Customer Solutions Unit where she leads the Business Resolution Team. In addition to her work at Prudential, she also serves as a Board Trustee of BRICK – Achieve Community Charter School, which services elementary children. 

2021 Leader

Leader of February: Maria Elena Noel-Vaeza

In February, we learned from Maria Elena Noel-Vaeza about how the UN is working to help women around the world. Maria-Noel is the Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean. A Uruguayan native, she holds a doctorate in Law and Social Sciences from the University of the Republic of Uruguay and a master’s degree in public policy from John Hopkins University in Washington DC. Prior to this role, Maria-Noel served as Director of the Program Division at UN Women headquarters in New York. She has also served as Political Counselor at the Uruguayan Embassy in Washington DC and delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. 

Leader of March: Damaris Diaz 

The charismatic Damaris Diaz shared pandemic stories with us this past March. As the host of Univision’s Despierta America, she had the opportunity to speak to individuals about their pandemic experience and shared with us her own insights and lessons learned. In addition to television host, Damaris is an accomplished multicultural and bi-lingual Marketing Media Professional, broadcast correspondent, and TV personality. Damaris has received two Emmy nominations and many special recognitions from diverse organizations. Throughout her career, Damaris has interviewed a long list of Hollywood stars such as Mick Jagger, Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, and Rita Moreno as well as world-renowned singers/performers like Marc Anthony and Celia Cruz among others.

2021 Leader

Leader of April: Dr. Harbeen Arora 

In April, thought leader, businesswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, author, spiritual seeker and speaker, Dr. Harbeen Arora showed us how she manifests multifaceted leadership with strength & simplicity. Founder and Global Chairperson of the ALL Ladies League (ALL) and Women Economic Forum (WEF), she is a global leader for women. A powerful global network of 200,000 women worldwide and growing toward ‘Mission Million’, ALL and WEF are among the largest communities of women entrepreneurs and leaders worldwide offering platforms and ecosystems for personal and professional growth.

Ivana Sedia

Leader of May: Ivana Sedia 

In May, we learned from Ivana Sedia about how her company, Unida Translation, is helping people connect and transcend borders. Unida Translation delivers both spoken and written word translation services in over 125 languages for projects in the certified, legal, government, medical, and technical fields. Ivana’s business grew out of a hobby and passion for translation and language learning. With experience with writing in Spanish and English and working for the government by assisting non-English speaking immigrants, an MBA in management, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, International Relations and Diplomacy with a minor in Italian, Ivana taught Spanish and Italian lessons. She then decided to use her language skills to help transcend borders for businesses and organizations in need of translation services.

Latina Leader

Leader of June: Alice Rodriguez 

With over 30 years of extensive banking experience at JP Morgan Chase and positions in business banking, consumer banking, Alice Rodriguez serves a leading role in community engagement initiatives and localization strategies. Alice shared her story of overcoming obstacles to succeed during the 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit as Keynote Speaker. During her Keynote speech, Alice shared how her mother was a big influence and inspiration growing up. She reminded us that, “Behind every great woman there is another great woman,” and the importance of having women mentors and leaders to look up to. See her full speaker highlights and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in her full feature article.

Latina Leader of te month

Leader of July: Natalie Diaz 

In July, Pulitzer Award-winning poet, Natalie Diaz, shared her experiences as a Latina and Native American woman in her book Postcolonial Love PoemBorn in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, Natalie now lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she is a professor at Arizona State University. She is also actively involved in the preservation of the Mojave language, working with the few remaining elder speakers of the language in an effort to revitalize the language and prevent its erasure. Natalie described her book as “a constellation, able to pool a lot of different communities together….We’re all fighting for this Earth, for one another against injustice.”

Latina athletes, Tokyo Olympic Games

Leader of August: Jasmine Camacho-Quinn

During the Olympics this past summer, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn broke records winning Gold in the women’s 100m Hurdles final. The 24-year-old athlete finished in 12.37 seconds, winning by .15 seconds.

Jasmine’s win marked Puerto Rico’s second ever gold medal and she became the first Puerto Rican of Afro-Latina descent in history to win gold while representing Puerto Rico. 

She is a role model and inspiration to all young Puerto Rican girls, especially young Latina athletes aspiring to follow in Jasmine’s footsteps. Her win showed Latinas athletes everywhere that they too can be Olympic Gold Medalists too. 

Rosita Hurtado

Leader of September: Rosita Hurtado

Our 2021 Leader of September, showed us how a childhood passion can become a successful design export. Rosita Hurtado is a fashion designer and entrepreneur who’s known for creating the fashion brand Rosita Hurtado and Rosita Hurtado Bridal. She is also the founder of Rosita Hurtado Menswear, Ixoye, Rosita Hurtado Shoes, and the perfume La Rose by Rosita Hurtado.

An accomplished designer with a career spanning 37 years, her work has been featured across the globe at events such as New York Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week, and Los Angeles Fashion Week, and more and worn by stars such as  Eva Longoria, Lucia Mendez, Lupita Ferrer, Gloria Trevi, and Ximena Duque.

Leader of October: Marcela Berland 

In October, Marcela Berland shared her career journey and how a quest for longer maternity leave in the 90s lead her to a successful career working remotely from home before it was popular. Marcela is the President and CEO of Latin Insights, a strategic communications firm  that focuses on the Latino market and Latin America. LI bases their strategies on research and digital and AI tools and develops digital and marketing strategies to help clients achieve their goals.

After over 20 years, Marcela’s venture has become a success. She now serves a variety of clients that include political candidates and heads of state, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. As a successful Latina, she is also often the only woman in the room when working with Presidents and political candidates in Latin America.

Lucy Pinto, Latina Leader

Leader of November: Lucy Pinto 

Our 2021 Leader of November showed us how technology at Google is working to close the digital divide for minority small business owners and underserved communities. Lucy Pinto is the Manager of the Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program which works to level the field for communities who face digital divides and barriers to resources needed to grow online. The program delivers free digital skills training for U.S. Black & Latino small businesses and has trained over 80,000 businesses on digital tools to help them succeed.

Throughout Lucy’s 9 years with Google and prior, she has strived to create inclusive outcomes for communities who lack access to opportunities. This passion has guided her journey personally and professionally, stemming from her identity as a Peruvian immigrant who came to the U.S. at eight years old and became a first gen college graduate in her family.

2021 Leader

Leader of December: Evelyn Padin

Finally,  Evelyn Padin’s story showed us the power of diversity in the legal world. Evelyn Padin is a Seton Hall Law Alumnus, Class of ’92, a former social worker, and a trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association. Additionally, she is a successful entrepreneur who runs her own family law and civil litigation practice in Jersey City. In November of this year she was nominated by President Biden  to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. This pick continues Biden’s pledge to appoint more diverse individuals to high level positions.

Continuing a line of historic strides forward for women of color in government positions, Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to this esteemed bench since the Honorable Esther Salas, U.S.D.J., former HBA-NJ President, was nominated over a decade ago.

bullying, antibullying, students,

Bullying online became bigger during the pandemic and added more concern

Leah Kyaio is a Professional Development Trainer, specializing in the area of diversity and inclusion. She is the CEO of With Respect, LLC, which provides unique expertise, experience, and tools for engaging resistance within the workforce as well as issues where previous diversity work has resulted in divisiveness, violence, or toxic work environments.

Below, Leah shares her expertise on navigating the topic of bullying for minority students during the pandemic, both online and offline. 


Leah Kyaio, personal development trainer and CEO of With Respect, LLC. (Photo courtesy Leah Kyaio)

Throughout the pandemic, children have struggled with keeping connections to their peers strong and healthy. Bullying has always been a concern among school-aged children, and that didn’t just disappear as schools shut down and moved to largely virtual instruction. 

 With the tech-savviness of today’s children, adolescents, and teens, bullying online (cyberbullying) has added a new level of concern for parents and schools. Research indicates that cyberbullying has increased during the pandemic. Bullying online is harder to control, and in most cases the things posted online are out there forever. 

With old-fashioned, offline bullying and cyberbullying remaining an issue even throughout the COVID pandemic, it’s up to parents, teachers, and administrators to pay attention and brainstorm ways to curb the problem.

Minority students often experience a level of bullying that differs from their white peers. According to studies, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to experience alienation and loneliness, especially in a virtual school environment where isolation is a factor for everyone. As the diversity of schools continues to expand, inclusion takes more and more of a front seat in conversations. This raises the stakes of managing issues like cyberbullying. 

The Sins of the Fathers (and Mothers)

Not only were children grappling with a historic pandemic, but the summer of 2020 brought a civil rights reckoning on the heels of instances of police brutality against the black community. Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory started to appear in the news frequently, causing rifts in thought and opinion. Within these heated discussions, the idea of equity in the classroom came under fire. As children watched adults battle it out on and offline, the influence bled into their thoughts and words. As has always been true, children’s actions mirrored that of the world around them. Add to that the stress of the pandemic society and it is logical that cyberbullying increased.  

“It’s integral for quelling bullying to open conversations regarding equity, acceptance, and understanding various minority experiences,” says Leah. (Photo courtesy Leah Kyaio)

Opening the conversation on systemic racism seemed to give license to a myriad of implicit and explicit biases, with students of color more and more in the crosshairs, showing up as questions, crass statements, emphasis on stereotypes, and Oppression Olympics (“I’m more oppressed than you because….”). 

The Internet is Forever 

 Emerging science suggests people’s brains are not done developing until age 25. Kids and teens often show a lack of understanding of the permanency of posts online. They live their lives in social media circles, and whatever they may be experiencing, from pandemic shutdowns to racial tension, peppers their interactions. The result is they have little connection to the idea that what they type today may come back in not-so-good ways later. 

Teaching Respect 

 When working with students, I teach the tools of maintaining respect, not because I like you, accept you, or even know you, but because we are all human. Taking our lives online runs the risk of diminishing our human-ness, in some ways. Students are far more likely to say things and engage in bullying behavior they would never dream of doing in person. The anonymity that virtual interactions sometimes provide leads to harsher words, greater criticisms, and discriminatory actions. 

It’s integral for quelling bullying to open conversations regarding equity, acceptance, and understanding various minority experiences. The more students understand one another and listen to the stories of their peers, the more compassion and empathy they learn and demonstrate. This instruction should include how to ask questions and stay curious as well as learning the antidote to the language of shame, blame, and judgment. It is the art of emphasizing how words, online and off, can hurt and how to state opinions without making enemies. 

You might be interested: Why words matter: The negative impacts of racial microaggressions

Creating a safe environment for students to learn about one another and speak openly about issues is integral to mitigating the issue of bullying. Compassion and grace are required if there is to be any expectation of change. We can do this by reminding our children that the rules of respect apply to their behavior online as well as offline, that if they wouldn’t say it to a person in front of them, they shouldn’t type it.  

anti-bullying,

“When working with students, I teach the tools of maintaining respect, not because I like you, accept you, or even know you, but because we are all human.” (Photo courtesy Leah Kyaio)

As adults, it is important to remember the trauma that bullying and prejudice can cause and recognize how much more vulnerable minority students become in the virtual world. This can be one of our primary motivations to teach all students how to be respectful.

 Educational institutions are becoming increasingly more diverse related to sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity, and creed. Institutions need to have a secure plan that includes compassion and education to decrease instances of bullying online and off and to support students in learning to manage their virtual experience with respect and dignity.  

About Leah Kyaio

Leah identifies as Two-Skinned, having a Blackfoot mother—a Native American Tribe—and an Appalachian white father. Her early childhood experiences gave her insight into the privilege provided by the white skin she wears. That same early experience and trauma made clear the connection of the historical trauma of her Native heritage. With that early lived experience of white privilege and seeing the disparities across race, gender, and class, she recognized her unique position to be able to speak and teach the tools necessary to engage in deeper conversations in the forever process of mitigating the impacts of systemic oppression. That’s where With Respect LLC was born. Through her business, she does diversity differently, finding that by teaching tools of respect and belonging, the consequential behavior changes lead to dignity and respect across all the -isms.

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin’s nomination to the U.S. District Court Judge in NJ is “a victory for our community”

President Biden has nominated Evelyn Padin, the former president of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. This pick continues Biden’s pledge to appoint more diverse individuals to high level positions. 

During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. 

“It’s a cabinet that looks like America, taps into the best of America, and opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation,” Biden said. 

Evelyn Padin is a Seton Hall Law Alumnus, Class of ’92, a former social worker, and a trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association. Additionally, she is a successful entrepreneur who runs her own family law and civil litigation practice in Jersey City.

Continuing a line of historic strides forward for women of color in government positions, Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to this esteemed bench since the Honorable Esther Salas, U.S.D.J., former HBA-NJ President, was nominated over a decade ago. In 2019, Padin also became the first Puerto Rican and Latina to be sworn in as NJSBA President in the history of the association, which dates back to 1888.  

In a press release, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (“HBA-NJ”) issued a statement congratulating Trustee and friend, Evelyn Padin, on her nomination to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.  

The President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, Tabatha L. Castro, had this to say about this momentous nomination:

“To hear that Evelyn Padin has been nominated for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey is a victory for our community. I have known Evelyn for many years, from being part of the Board of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey to President of the New Jersey State Bar Association and everything in between. She serves New Jersey with zeal, passion and integrity and will be a great asset to the District Court, which is why our JPAC Committee endorsed her. We will continue to promote and support the ascension of qualified Latino members of our community to the bench and other important leadership roles in New Jersey.”

Evelyn Padin

Evelyn Padin is the second Latina to be nominated to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey. (Image Source)

Padin brings over 30 years of legal experience to her role, if confirmed. Throughout her career she has supported groups and organizations that empower underserved communities. She has been a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, New Jersey Family Law Executive Committee (since 2007), and she serves as Vice President and Founder of the Carevel Foundation, whose mission is to educate and empower underrepresented members in the community.

Over the years the Foundation has partnered with organizations such as NJ Women Rising, The Boys & Girls Club, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, and Autism Awareness of Jersey City. Most recently, fundraising efforts have focused on supporting victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

As a frequent lecturer, Padin has actively served as a speaker on behalf of the National Council of State Bar Presidents, the New Jersey State Bar Association, and the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She is also a former Trustee of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and previously served on the board of New Jersey Women Lawyers. 

For Latinas everywhere, Padin’s confirmation to the esteemed position of U.S. District Court Judge in New Jersey would signal a great step forward in the movement for greater diversity and representation in government. 

You might be interested: The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color 

women of color in politics

The strides toward diversity in politics continue in historic firsts for women of color

In recent years, we have seen a rise in women of color elected into office. This rise is a step forward for minority women in politics, who have historically been underrepresented in elected office. 

According to research from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics (CAMP), “of the 144 women serving in the 117th U.S. Congress, 50, or 34.7%, are women of color. Women of color constitute 9.2% of the total 535 members of Congress. The record high for women of color serving in Congress was 52, set between January 3, 2021, and January 18, 2021.” 

Additionally, of the women serving in statewide elective executive offices, 19.1%, are women of color and women of color constitute 5.8% of the total 310 statewide elective executives. In positions of state legislators, women of color makeup 26.5% of the 2,290 women state legislators serving nationwide and constitute 8.2% of the total 7,383 state legislators.

Last year’s election saw a big, historic first for women of color, with Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person elected to the position of Vice President. 

Other firsts include Cori Bush, who won her general election race, making her the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress and Marilyn Strickland, who won her race in Washington’s 10th Congressional District Making her the first African American member of the Washington state delegation and the first African American from the Pacific Northwest in Congress. 

This year, the stride toward greater diversity continued with more historic firsts for women of color in politics. 

The historic firsts continue for women of color 

In Boston, Michelle Wu became the first woman and the first Asian American elected as the city’s mayor. Prior to Wu, Boston had only elected white, male leaders. Her win is a progressive step forward for diversity and representation in politics. 

women of color in politics,

Michelle Wu becomes first woman and Asian American mayor of Boston. (Image via Instagram)

In the city of Durham, N.C., another woman was elected as mayor in a historic first. In her victory speech, Elain O’Neal told supporters, “Together you have given me the honor and trust of being your next mayor — the first Black woman mayor of Durham. This is a dream that I never had, but it’s now my reality.”

New York City also saw Shahana Hanif become the first Muslim woman elected to City Council. 

“We deserve a city that protects its most vulnerable, a city that has equitable education, a city invested in climate solutions that are local and driven by communities, a city where our immigrant neighbors feel at home and heard and safe. This work requires all of us to keep showing up even though the election is over,” she said in a statement Tuesday. 

You might be interested: Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Finally, Republican Winsome Sears became the first woman elected to the office of lieutenant governor in Virginia. 

“It’s a historic night — yes, it is — but I didn’t run to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” Sears said in a speech Wednesday morning. “I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American Dream.”

Lucy Pinto, Grow With Google, Google Digital Coaches

Americas’ opportunity and disparity sparked the career of Google Digital Coaches Manager Lucy Pinto

Lucy Pinto is the Manager of the Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program which works to level the field for communities who face digital divides and barriers to resources needed to grow online. The program delivers free digital skills training for U.S. Black & Latino small businesses and has trained over 80,000 businesses on digital tools to help them succeed.

Lucy Pinto

Lucy Pinto, Manager of the Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program. (Photo courtesy Lucy Pinto)

Throughout Lucy’s 9 years with Google and prior, she has strived to create inclusive outcomes for communities who lack access to opportunities. This passion has guided her journey personally and professionally, stemming from her identity as a Peruvian immigrant who came to the U.S. at eight years old. 

“Coming from a low-income immigrant family living in the south, I was exposed very early on to a duality that perplexed me: this is a country of opportunity and disparity at the same time,” said Lucy. “I knew that if I wanted to help my community, I had to unapologetically go after opportunities then disseminate what I learn to others in my community who might not have the same access.” 

With this mission in mind, Lucy worked hard to attend college. She received her B.B.A. in Management and International Business from The University of Georgia in 2012–becoming the first in her family to graduate college. 

Before graduating, Lucy began her career at Google as an intern in 2011. Lucy highlights the importance of mentorship and development programs, such as the Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s Career Prep program, which helped prepare her to navigate Corporate America. 

While Lucy’s first role at Google was not related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she made it a purpose to engage in this work outside of her core role at the time. She became active in various groups including Google’s Employee Resource Groups. From 2016-2018 Lucy served as the N.Y.C. Chapter Lead of HOLA –– the Hispanic Google Network — which is committed to representing the voice of the Latino community within and outside Google. 

Within a few years, Lucy attained a core role on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team, enabling her to build a more equitable Google experience internally and externally. Now she works in Marketing where her work as Grow with Google’s Digital Coaches Manager focuses on amplifying Google’s best-in-class digital skills training to help Black and Latino business owners in the United States thrive. 

Additionally, Lucy has been the recipient of various awards for her work. In 2018, she was recognized as a Young Hispanic Corporate Achiever by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility and recipient of the 2019 Negocios Now N.Y.C. Latinos 40 Under 40 award. On April 12, 2019, she was awarded a proclamation by the Westchester County Board of Legislators proclaiming April 12 as “Lucy Pinto Day” for her participation in the 100 Hispanic Women of Westchester Leadership Forum as well as her professional and community work. 

Lucy Pinto

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 13: Lucy Pinto speaks onstage during the PowHERful Benefit Gala on June 13, 2018 at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for PowHERful Foundation)

One career highlight that stands out for Lucy was managing the participation of hundreds of employees in volunteer initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide across 15 countries —such as South Africa, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Nigeria— which reached 135K people. 

“The activation in South Africa stood out to me because I was able to attend it in person and witness first-hand the impact of our work. We partnered with a local organization called MOOV and had about 50+ employees from the Black Googler Network connect with 250+ job seekers and entrepreneurs from Soweto,” said Lucy. 

Soweto residents face many systemic barriers deeply rooted in the country’s history with apartheid, and they often look to entrepreneurship to make a living for themselves and their families. The activation focused on delivering digital skills training to help job seekers build resumes and help business owners reach customers online.

“To me personally, this activation had some of the most heartfelt stories and testimonials that I’ve come across in my career.” 

Navigating obstacles in the workplace 

 As a Latina in the workplace, Lucy approaches matters through a multicultural lens. For many Latinas, this lens can be advantageous because it can help a company identify inclusion gaps in marketing or hiring, and help build innovative solutions that authentically reach diverse audiences. 

“Being a Latina in the workplace can give you a cultural intelligence edge. You’ll likely have a unique perspective on how to make products and programs more inclusive thanks to your own diverse and innovative lived experiences,” she says. 

Throughout her years of experience working in leadership roles and aiding entrepreneurs on their journeys, Lucy has also learned many important lessons and strategies for tackling career obstacles and challenges. While career development training is essential, there is nothing like hands-on experience. 

Lucy recalls a time in her career when she faced a challenge with a co-worker. Lucy received some critical feedback that misrepresented who she was as a professional, and miscommunication about the issue led to hurt feelings. 

“This peer didn’t give me the feedback directly but rather shared such with their manager, leaving me feeling betrayed, perplexed, and concerned about my career trajectory. I spoke in detail with my work mentors, including my manager, about the issue. I felt vulnerable and wanted to get validation from people who worked close to me,” Lucy recounts. 

Lucy Pinto, Grow with Google, Google Digital Coaches

“To work effectively and influence peers, be it management or leadership, communication is key,” says Google Digital Coaches Program Manager, Lucy Pinto. (Photo courtesy Lucy Pinto)

After speaking to her manager, he highlighted something she had never considered before: communication style differences. 

This perspective shed new light on the situation and how the misunderstanding had arisen. Communication styles are often shaped by one’s upbringing, culture, and current circumstances. Lucy describes herself as an analytical thinker who loves to reflect on ideas out loud and work through pros and cons on the spot. 

“This is my default way of brainstorming, much like my family and I did at the dinner table. After speaking with my manager, I realized that the issue’s root was the extreme difference in communication styles. I wasn’t acting how my coworker perceived, nor was my perception of my co-worker accurate. It was just that my co-worker and I spoke in different communication languages.”

Lucy thought she was simply analyzing her co-worker’s proposal and pressure testing it with questions. Her co-worker interpreted this as Lucy shutting down her ideas and being territorial with their collaborative project. 

After taking a communication style assessment to understand better where she and her co-worker’s styles fell on the range, they discovered they indeed had very different styles. They were able to use this assessment as a framework to guide their conversation and work through their differences, build rapport, and ultimately work effectively together.

“What I learned from this challenge was something super valuable to my career: to work effectively and influence peers, be it management or leadership, communication is key,” said Lucy. 

“Understanding your own communication style and how to stretch it to get your desired outcome is crucial. It doesn’t mean that you have to change your default communication style, but you do have to strike a balance, especially when you’re attempting to influence decision-making.”

Lucy Pinto

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 13: Soledad O’Brien (L) and Lucy Pinto speak onstage during the PowHERful Benefit Gala on June 13, 2018 at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for PowHERful Foundation)

Another lesson Lucy has learned and imparts to other entrepreneurs and career-driven women is remembering that the journey is not always linear or upward. 

“Your career might be full of twists, turns, lateral moves, and balancing out personal with professional. Find beauty and learn from this ‘chaos’ as it will equip you to have the breadth needed to be an effective thought leader.” 

Finally, make time to periodically check in with yourself on what success looks like to you as you progress in your career. You may find that your definition of success has changed over time, and that’s okay!

“Does your definition of success mean making it to a C-suite position, or do you feel more fulfilled by a constant change in scope regardless of title? It’s important to keep YOU at the center of it,” Lucy advises. “Don’t measure your success by the definition of others but rather by your own terms.”

You might be interested: Latinas are underrepresented in law, says attorney Anna María Tejada

Latinas are underrepresented in law, says attorney Anna María Tejada

In nearly every industry, Latinas face obstacles and struggles as both women and ethnic minorities. Latinas face greater difficulties establishing themselves in professional industries and attaining high level positions. The gender-wage gap is also greatest for Latinas, who are the last group to celebrate Equal Pay Day on October 21 and earn on average 55 cents to the dollar white, non-hispanic men earn. Equal Pay Day represents the number of months it takes for women to earn the same amount as men earn in a year. For Latinas, they must work 23 months to earn what a white, non-hispanic man earns in just 12 month.  

One industry in which Latina representation is lacking, is law. Currently, Latinos represent 20 percent of the population, however just 5% of practicing attorneys are Latino, and of that only 2% are Latina. Additionally, from that 2% only about .4 are partners at law firms. 

Anna Maria Tejada is Latina attorney working to create opportunities for young women in her industry. (Photo courtesy Anna Maria Tejada)

Anna María Tejada is a Latina attorney who is working to increase opportunities for Latinas in the legal profession. As a daughter of Dominican immigrants, Anna María is a first-generation attorney who benefitted from various affirmative action programs in her education such as Headstart, EOF, and the Rutgers MSP Program. She learned from a very young age the importance of law in our everyday lives. 

“I am too familiar with the immigration experience in the United States. I also am very well aware of the role immigration laws play in the lives of dreamers and individuals who simply want to achieve the American Dream,” said Anna María. “If it was not for the assistance of a legal services attorney, neither my family nor I would not be here today. Acknowledging the importance attorneys have in impacting social change and individual lives, I knew law could change lives. That is why I chose this career.”

Now, with over 20 years of experience in her industry, Anna María is passionate about giving back and aiding other young Latinas in their careers. 

Currently, she is a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Newark, New Jersey where she practices labor and employment law, is the  President of Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ) and the Vice President of Membership for the Hispanic National Bar Association.  

“It is not lost on me that to whom much is given, much is required.  It is my responsibility to give back to the generation of attorneys coming behind me, which is why I enjoy volunteering with bar associations and other community organizations. I believe that you have to lift as you rise, and for me, the HBA was critical to where I am today,” said Anna María. 

Navigating obstacles as a first-generation law student 

As a first-generation attorney, there was a lot Anna María did not know about the profession when she first started out. Her biggest obstacle at the time was navigating the legal world. As a young student entering law school, she knew she wanted to practice law but was unsure of the steps to take to become a successful attorney. 

“To be successful in this profession, you have to understand the language and culture of the legal world.  I found mentors and colleagues with similar experiences who could assist in navigating this career. I had to seek out spaces where I could network with those who are in law and have a similar background as me.”  

As a law student, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (HBA-NJ) provided Anna María with financial support through scholarships. Later, as an attorney, the organization provided a network of experienced attorneys and judges that would serve as mentors and resources. 

Knowing first hand how important mentorship can be to minority youths entering the legal profession, with the HBA-NJ Anna María established the American Dream Pipeline Program in 2013, to provide students with exposure to the legal profession and guidance from attorney mentors sharing similar backgrounds and life experiences.

“It is important for students of colors, especially young women, to see successful Latina attorneys and professionals, so they too can achieve their dreams.” (Photo courtesy Anna Maria Tejada)

The Pipeline Program is geared towards high school students (“mentees”) from urban communities – Passaic and Union City High Schools, who come from families that immigrated to the United States and are likely first-generation college-bound students. The purpose of the Pipeline Program is to provide the mentees with opportunities to meet attorneys and other professionals who have come from similar circumstances and can provide guidance to the mentees as they navigate through high school and start their own college application process.   

“It is important for students of colors, especially young women, to see successful Latina attorneys and professionals, so they too can achieve their dreams,” said Anna María. 

You might be interested: LUCA founder Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, how the pandemic has impacted Latino college enrollment

Strengthening the professional pipeline for women of color 

In her profession, Anna María is a leader and a connector of people. Through her leadership activities, she has made a point to elevate diversity, equity and inclusion issues in her work, which has helped connect her with colleagues and experts across industries and sectors. She brings strong relationships to the firm and in her volunteer and activist work. 

In 2016, Anna María joined the Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ), the leading executive women’s organization in NJ. Here, Anna María connected with a robust network of professional women executives who have been on similar professional journeys. After years with the organization, Anna María became President of EWNJ, beginning in 2020-2021.  

“As Latinas, we often feel we can handle things on our own and we certainly can; however, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.” (Photo courtesy Anna Maria Tejada)

“Seek mentors who look like you, but also mentors who do not look like you but are willing to serve as a resource. Seek out organizations that could elevate you and put you in touch with people who could be critical for your professional development, such as Bar and industry associations, Anna María advised for Latinas aspiring to enter the legal profession. “Also groups such as Executive Women of New Jersey whose members cut across all industries and sectors, expose you to a variety of resources for your growth.”

“Number one thing, keep your eye on your goals. With so few Latinas in law, many of us are trailblazers in our communities and in our field of work.”

Most importantly, Anna María says is elevating those coming up behind you by paying forward the help you received. 

“This will help strengthen the professional pipeline for women, especially women of color. As Latinas, we often feel we can handle things on our own and we certainly can; however, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.”

Colin Powell

Alma and Colin Powell’s lasting American promise to the nation’s youth 

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before serving as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. 

Powell passed away on Monday after complications of Covid-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook. Powell had been vaccinated, however he was being treated for myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection; this compromised his immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine, The Associated Press reported. 

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said. 

Honoring America’s Promise to the nation’s youth through life of service

Born in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents, Powell grew up in the South Bronx. His childhood was marked by financial struggle and hardship. In his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, Powell wrote, “Mine is the story of a black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx.” From these humble beginnings, he rose through the ranks, becoming a prominent public figure in America and breaking barriers. 

Speaking on how Powell’s early years influenced his actions in life, President Biden said, “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.”

Alma Powell, author, advocate, speaker and Chair Emeritus, America’s Promise Alliance. (Photo Source)

After retiring from the military in 1993, Powell began dedicating more time to fulfilling that promise. In 1997, Powell became the Founding Chairman of “America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth”, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in America. Together with his wife, Alma, they worked to advocate for and improve the lives of children and youth by ensuring that Five Promises are fulfilled in their lives. 

Alma Powell later wrote the children’s book, “America’s Promise” as a way to teach and exemplify America’s Five Promises to children.

In the playful picture book, Alma Powell introduces young readers to the basic principles of America’s Promise — caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, marketable skills, and opportunities to serve.

“Our mission is to mobilize people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of our nation’s youth by fulfilling five promises for young people,” Alma wrote

The Five Promises ask Americans to step up and create a world where the nation’s children can thrive and achieve adult success: 

  1. Caring Adults in Every Child’s Life – Develop relationships with parents, tutors, mentors, coaches, and other adults with an interest in the child’s well-being.
  2. A Safe Place After School – Create locations with structured activities during non-school hours.
  3. A Healthy Start -Provide good nutrition, protective immunizations, and sound dental care and hygiene.
  4. Marketable Skills – Offer effective education and practical experiences for career development.
  5. Opportunities to Give Back – Encourage community service – so that the cycle continues.

Throughout his life, Colin Powell exemplified these values as a youth advocate, public servant, parent, and leader. His accomplishments and historic firsts as a person of color also made him an inspiration and role model to many young Black Americans. 

Colin Powell

Colin Powell was a trailblazer and role model for Americans, inspiring many through his work, Kamala Harris shares. 

“Every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on his influence. “Young servicemembers and others not only within the military, but in our nation and around the globe, took notice of what his accomplishments meant as a reflection of who we are as a nation.”

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By the time Powell retired from the military, he was known as one of the most popular public figures in America, “owing to his straightforwardness, his leadership qualities and his ability to speak in blunt tones that Americans appreciated.” (The New York Times) 

“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” said George W. Bush in a statement Monday. “Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Colin Powell lived a life of service and achieved great accomplishments through his merits. He leaves behind a legacy as trailblazer and role model who broke racial barriers in our nation. As an inspiration to many, his work will continue on, with his lasting American promise to make the world a better place for our youth.

“The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners and we need to repair”, say Brooklyn2Bogota founders

Rosario B. Casas and Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur are the founders of Brooklyn2Bogota, a digital incubator for Hispanic business owners. Rosario is an award-winning women-in-tech advocate and serial tech entrepreneur. Felipe is an author, entrepreneur, engineer and veteran.  

The married couple founded Brooklyn2Bogota with the mission to close the digital divide post-Covid for business owners and entrepreneurs by focusing on empowerment, digital transformation, and business growth through a variety of activities and mentor lectures. 

In the fifth installment of the National Leaders for Latinx Advancement Series, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann sat down with Rosario and Felipe to discuss the incubator program and how Latino businesses can grow post-pandemic. 

The pandemic push that launched their dream 

Brooklyn2Bogota leaders Rosario B. Casas and husband Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

The husband-and-wife duo first began envisioning Brooklyn2Bogota sometime in 2015. At the time they were living in New York City and Felipe was working as a diplomat for the community. Together, they began wondering how else they could help the Hispanic community, especially immigrants. They wanted to help the community in other ways, aside from the legal work Felipe was already doing at the time. 

As an entrepreneur, Rosario began imagining ways to help Latino business owners and entrepreneurs succeed and grow their businesses and soon the seeds for Brooklyn2Bogota were planted. She quickly began reserving the name ‘Brooklyn2Bogota’ across various sites and platforms with her early vision in mind. Over time, Rosario and Felipe continued to develop this idea of an incubator program that would nurture entrepreneurs and small business owners on their journeys. 

“We had planned to launch more or less for 2022,” said Rosario. “But then the pandemic happened, the crisis happened, and we knew we had to launch early. The pilot plan was launching the first cohort. Today we are in the third cohort.” 

The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners, especially in minority populations such as the Latino community. In the past year since Brooklyn2Bogota’s lauch, three cohorts have provided resources, assistance, and mentorships to Latino entrepreneurs and business owners. Covid-19 brought many things into focus, such as the impact of technology in our lives and the importance of community and working together. 

“When you speak of unity, you have to understand the numbers and the power that we have,” said Felipe, speaking about the vast and growing Latino population in the US. “Hispanics are now almost 25 percent of the population of the United States.” 

As such a large population, the Hispanic community has the potential to impact the economy and the country’s businesses. However, for too long, minority communities have struggled to gain the resources and knowledge necessary for success and growth. This is where Rosario and Felipe stepped up to help through Brooklyn2Bogota’s programs. 

Closing the digital divide for Latino businesses post-Covid 

Brooklyn2Bogota’s program is based on three fundamental pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth. As a tech entrepreneur, Rosario understands the importance of technology when it comes to running a business. Since the pandemic, the digital divide has become more obvious. Many business owners struggled to shift online during the pandemic and their businesses suffered. Rosario and Felipe want to close that divide so that every entrepreneur may succeed. 

The incubator program focuses on helping non-tech entrepreneurs and business owners who are unfamiliar with the world of tech. They offer information, resources, and mentorship to accelerate and promote digital learning. 

Many past videos of lectures and mentor sessions available online for free and the information is delivered in Spanish. This was important to Rosario and Felipe, since language barrier is often a barrier for knowledge. There is a plethora of resources in English but not as much in Spanish for Latino business owners and entrepreneurs, the couple explained. Many Latinos also prefer to learn in their native language, especially when the concepts are new or complicated. 

women-in-tech

Rosario at TEDxTalk. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

In the 10-week cohort entrepreneurs receive theoretical sessions and panels of specialized topics, dictated by carefully selected mentors. Focusing on the three pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth participants work to accelerate their growth in digital world post-COVID. The thematic mentoring sessions between members and participants provides them expert knowledge and guidance as they move through the program. 

You might be interested: Rosario B. Casas shares how the pandemic has accelerated technology and tech trends to keep an eye on

Finally, the program provides participants with a private network that brings together the mentors and participants who complete the program. This network allows for further connection, collaboration, and exchange of ideas in the future and continued growth for entrepreneurs and business owners. 

The fourth cohort is tentatively set to begin in April 2022. For more information and to apply, visit Brooklyn2Bogota.com

Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Marcela Berland is the President and CEO of Latin Insights, a strategic communications firm  that focuses on the Latino market and Latin America. LI bases their strategies on research and digital and AI tools and develops digital and marketing strategies to help clients achieve their goals. LI’s clients include political candidates and heads of state, corporations and nonprofit organizations. 

Building a successful consulting firm from the ground up

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Marcela Berland eventually came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and began working in New York in strategic communications and polling. At the time she did not expect to launch her own consulting firm and embark on her own entrepreneurial journey. However, life circumstances would soon steer her onto this path.

It was 1996, after the birth of her daughter, Isabella. Marcela asked her then-boss for five extra months of maternity leave so she could work from home taking care of her newborn. She had done the same before when her son was born so Marcela did not expect to be told “No.” After her 3 months of maternity leave, Marcela announced her resignation. 

Marcela Berland, Frank Gomez, Latin Insights

Marcela Berland and Frank Gomez. (Photo by Max Canovas)

“They realized then that they needed me. Many of my clients wanted to work with me so, they agreed to let me work primarily from home.  Now, too little too late, I positioned myself as an external consultant and negotiated a higher salary for fewer working hours. They agreed to all my terms.  However, I was very disappointed at the whole situation and had already made plans to consult for other clients,” said Marcela. 

After three more months, Marcela left for good, showing them that it was possible to work remotely from home and be effective– even in the late 90s! 

In 2000, Marcela decided it was time to launch her own firm. As a Latina, she had a unique perspective to bring to her company, understand the multicultural market in a deeper way, and she was already committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, in addition to women’s issues. 

The brand new entrepreneur began to plan and gather as much information as possible. She was nervous to set out on her own, fearing failure, but determined to try. Soon, she reached out to someone she admired to help her build her business: communications, media, and political expert, Frank Gómez.  

“At the time, Frank was working at a corporation but thinking about retiring. He not only gave me great advice, but he ended up leaving his job and joined me as a partner. I was thrilled. And that’s how Latin Insights started, just the two of us at first,” said Marcela. 

Conquering the fear of failure and following your dreams 

After over 20 years, Marcela’s venture has become a success. She now serves a variety of clients that include political candidates and heads of state, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. As a successful Latina, she is also often the only woman in the room when working with Presidents and political candidates in Latin America. 

And she has proved that working remotely from home and being successful is possible. This was especially evident this past year during the pandemic when Marcela and her team worked remotely on a presidential race, developing a successful and highly effective strategy that ended with their candidate winning a very tough election. 

Despite her successes now, the early days of her entrepreneurial venture were full of doubts and fear of failure—a common fear for many new entrepreneurs. 

“The first obstacle I faced was overcoming my fear of failing. I was doing very well just consulting on my own, but starting a new company, becoming an entrepreneur had a completely different meaning. What if I didn’t make it? How could I sustain a business? Take care of all the financial and administrative needs associated with it?” Marcela shared. 

Like all newcomers, she soon learned the antidote to this fear was knowledge. Now, whenever she feels doubts, she takes this as an opportunity to learn and come back stronger. 

Latin Insights Founder and CEO, Marcela Berland. (Photo courtesy Marcela Berland)

“During my career as an entrepreneur, I learned that you need to reinvent yourself, adapt to the ever-changing times and take risks. It is the only way to grow. Learn from your mistakes. You need to be open and humble enough to admit that you made a mistake and change direction. Also, become associated with people who share the same values and mindset. I was very fortunate to find Frank early on. We sometimes disagree, but in more than 20 years, we have never had an argument.” 

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With over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, Marcela has found that success is not about winning alone, it is about making a difference. Additionally, each success is made all the more enjoyable because she loves what she does and loves helping her clients. For her, the work is more than just work, it is something she is passionate about. Having that passion pushes her to “go the extra mile” because she believes in delivering the highest quality service for her clients.  

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Marcela urges that you follow your dreams and go for your passion. She shares her pillars of advice for new entrepreneurs: 

First, be well prepared. Have very clear goals of what you want to achieve and develop a product/service that distinguishes you from others. Next, find the right partners/team to support you and ask for help from the right partners/associates/mentors. Check for resources that can help you and also make sure you help others on your way to success. Don’t give up even when you fail. Network strategically. Raise capital if needed (many organizations can help you with this task).

Finally, never stop learning; make sure you learn something new every day if possible, and always honor your values, treating others with respect.