Ivelisse Estrada

Ivelisse Estrada at Univision building community from a position of leadership

When I “googled” Ivelisse Estrada to dig some information from her career and prepare for her interview, I was astounded at the amount of work this Latina leader has done in her 25-year career at Univision.


Ivelisse Estrada

Ivelisse R Estrada, senior vice president of Corporate and Community Empowerment for Univision Communications Inc (UCI)

It is not uncommon that Latinas in a position of leadership will shine at their professional career development by overdoing their fair share. I have seen it time after time in many interviews with these accomplished women who are embracing their commitment to build community like a life or death matter. I admire their dedication, passion and conviction to do the next right thing and more.

In truth, she has achieved one of the highest levels of leadership at Univision, reaching the largest Spanish-language audience in the world, and inwards by breaking glass ceilings and expanding her scope and influence within the company.

However, little is found about her personal story of accomplishment and sacrifices.

Who is Ivelisse Estrada?

Ivelisse R. Estrada is the senior vice president of Corporate and Community Empowerment for Univision Communications Inc (UCI), the leading media company serving Latinos in the USA. The incredible amount of responsibilities she takes under her belt goes hand and hand with her humility and friendliness during our short phone encounter.

“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico in a family of four siblings. My mother, a social worker, became a widow at 36 years old and was the sole breadwinner in our home,” Ivelisse told “There were times when, due to lack of caretakers, I would go along when she was visiting her clients,” she shared.

Ivelisse Estrada

Ivelisse R. Estrada NHMC Award recipient for Outstanding Commitment to the Latino Community (Credits: Getty Images/Photo by John Heller/WireImage)

Seeing her mother working with clients and dealing with their problems instilled in Ivelisse the power of caring for others at a young age. This brave Puerto Rican woman, despite all the sacrifices and hardship she faced, was determined and finished her PhD at age 50. In fact, Ivelisse’s mother influenced all her children’s lives. Two of her children became social workers in their own right.

“My vocation was studying Literature and with that purpose I came to New York City to continue my college studies,” she shared. Estrada earned her undergraduate degree in liberal arts, Magna Cum Laude, from Barnard College to then continue graduate studies at Princeton University and Harvard University.

“Soon after I finished my MA, however, I didn’t find a teaching position but was soon offered a job in public relations and advertising which led me to the SIN National News as a Washington-based associate producer and on-air reporter, the predecessor of Univision,” she explained. “I thought that my teachers would kill me if they knew I was working on TV!” she shared.

However, Estrada saw a great opportunity in a massive communication medium such as television to empower millions of Hispanic viewers instead of just teaching a small group of students in academia.

After she married, she moved with her husband to Los Angeles and having small children, she thought that a job in front of a camera was not her role at that stage of her life. She was offered the position of Director of Communications at KMEX-TV, Channel 34, and the flagship station of what was then the Univision Television Group, Inc. in Los Angeles.

Responsible for overseeing the station’s communications department and for developing and coordinating all public relations, community outreach and media relations activities, it was at that time when she discovered the true impact of her potential reach. She launched a number of community projects that dealt with health, education and the arts in Hispanic LA.

“I guess my mother’s influence was still present in my life in so many ways,” she said.

Initiatives in Education, Health, Prosperity and Civic Participation

Ivelisse Estrada receives Peabody Award 2008 Credits: The Peabody Awards

Ivelisse Estrada receives Peabody Award 2008 Credits: The Peabody Awards

Ivelisse Estrada’s career at Univision has been outstanding in so many ways that it is impossible to grasp all its scope in one short article. Her drive and initiative helped the company create a whole division responsible for the overall development and coordination of community relations strategies, leveraging the company’s media assets including the Univision Network, UniMás Network, Univision Cable Networks, as well as Univision Local Media, including TV, radio and digital.

“My job includes coordinating philanthropic contributions and being a liaison between UCI and community organizations that strive for the advancement and empowerment of the Hispanic community,” she shared.

Estrada launched Univision Educación, a comprehensive, national education initiative in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, educators and civic and community leaders from around the country.

This initiative is aimed at improving academic achievement among K-12 Hispanic students with a specific focus on high school graduation and college readiness.

In 2003, Estrada initiated creation of a multi-year, cross-platform health initiative then entitled Salud es Vida…¡Entérate! (Lead a Healthy Life: Get the Facts) to promote healthy lifestyles among Latinos and encourage early detection and aggressive management of chronic health conditions affecting U.S. Hispanics. The following year, ¡Entérate! was honored with a Peabody Award, the first ever bestowed to a Spanish-language broadcast company.


A second Peabody was awarded in 2008 to an unprecedented national civic engagement campaign, “Ya es Hora…Ciudadanía” in collatoration with the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and various Hispanic serving organizations across the U.S. to mobilized more than one million eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship.

In 2013, the company launched Univision Contigo, a community empowerment platform focusing on four pillars, Education, Health, Prosperity and Civic Participation.

Her accolades include the 2014 Excellence in Community Award from MALDEF, the 2014 The Power of Participation Award from the Edmund P. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs and the RARE Champion of Hope, Collaboration in Advocacy from Global Genes; the Community Spirit Award from the American Diabetes Association; the “National Mujer Award” of the National Hispana Leadership Institute; National Hispanic Medical Association “Hispanic Corporate Leadership Award;” “Latina Leader in Media” from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the “Spirit of Hope Award” of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; “Hall of Fame Honoree” of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners; and the “Premio Award in Public Relations/Communications” of the Hispanic Public Relations Association.

Ivelisse Estrada

Ivelisse R Estrada and the Ya es Hora! crew at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York, NY USA June 16, 2008 Credits: The Peabody Awards

Joining the New America Alliance Latina Leadership Caucus

This year, Ivelisse Estrada will be one of the panelists at the American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force Session in New York City at the 2016 New America Alliance (NAA) Wall Street Summit. #naalatinacaucus

You might be interested: Latina leaders converge at NAA’s American Latinas Leadership Caucus

“When Pilar Avila called me, I jumped at the idea of empowering Latinas, mentor and push them through the pipelines to acquire higher positions in politics and the workplace,” she told “Although there has been an advancement of women in leadership, it is not enough; not enough in salaries or positions’ equality,” she stated. “We need to do more in helping and mentoring them in understanding how the business world works,” she shared.

“I’m inspired by immigrants who come to the United States looking for opportunities; in a way, my own story. One important way to empower them is offering the information and resources they need to make the best decisions for their lives and the well-being of their families, and that has been my passion for the last 25 years. It’s been an amazing ride!” she concluded.


NAA Wall Street Summit 2015 American Latina Leadership Caucus panel

Latina leaders converge at NAA’s American Latinas Leadership Caucus

Over 100 influential Latina leaders from across the country have converged to conform the New America Alliance (NAA) American Latina Leadership Caucus, an initiative that advocates for the preparation and placement of Latina leaders in entrepreneurship, corporate, appointed/elected office, and the nonprofit and academia sectors.

NAA Wall Street Summit 2015 American Latina Leadership Caucus panel

NAA Wall Street Summit 2015 American Latina Leadership Caucus panel

Last year, NAA hosted a series of introductory conversations with seasoned as well as rising Latina leaders to introduce them to new resources and connections, and present the initiative to new Caucus members. The meetings were held in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas, Puerto Rico, and Miami.

“Last year was the time to gather all this talent across the country. Now, in 2016, this is the ‘activation’ year, the year when we start identifying the candidates for different offices and industries, supporting and grooming them to achieve the positions they deserve,” said Pilar Avila, NAA’s CEO, to LIBizus. “We are amazed at the quality of our Caucus members, and it is our purpose to bring these Latina leaders to the forefront, become their best promotional partner, and help them move through the pipelines,” Avila said.

Changing Latino participation in the financial sector

Maria del Pilar Avila, CEO, New America Alliance

Maria del Pilar Avila, CEO, New America Alliance

New America Alliance, according to Avila, is the only Hispanic organization focused on changing Latinos participation in the financial sector.

“We are invested in expanding efforts to place Latino and Latina talent in public pension funds, endowments and foundations, corporate pension funds and foreign investment funds, among other financial sectors,” she said.

While Latino businesses continue to grow and expand at a staggering rate, it comes the time when these companies need expansion capital, Avila explains. However, due to the lack of Latino and Latina investors and funding officers, many of these enterprises have difficulties in penetrating or relating to venture capital. Access to capital then becomes a struggle and these businesses lag behind opportunities.

“When we started our push in 2003, there were three Latino firms representing $500M in private equity. Today, there are almost 100 companies representing over $100B in private equity and more than 80 of those companies are NAA’s members,” Avila shared.

So look at this improvement:

  • NAA membership of diverse and emerging asset management firms have over $60 Billion aggregate assets under management.
  • NAA diverse asset managers (with 25+% diverse ownership) represent almost $45 Billion of aggregate assets under management.
  • NAA Latino asset managers in private equity represent over $10 Billion in aggregate assets under management, as compared to under $500 Million reported in the NAA White Paper in 2003.
  • Ten NAA member firms managing over $1 Billion in assets each will be recognized during the Wall Street Summit. Together, these firms manage over $20 Billion in assets and range across asset classes, including private equity, real estate, hedge funds and public markets (as reported on NAA’s website).

“We still believe there is a lot to do, despite the participation of Latino and diverse firms in asset management, if we consider that the US capital pool is well over $40T,” Avila affirmed.

Latino economic impact

NAA Wall Street Summit 2015 Pension Funds Initiative panel

NAA Wall Street Summit 2015 Pension Funds Initiative panel

This year the organization is planning to conduct an Economic Impact Report to reflect how Latino private equity ventures are creating jobs, investing in businesses and offering financial services.

“This study would be instrumental in establishing Latino impact in the economy, and to attract more sources of capital to be integrated into this market. We are also looking at close collaboration with other minority groups such as African Americans and Asians because they face similar obstacles” Avila explained.

So for the NAA’s CEO, this year looks as an exciting and busy one. “This year is ‘activation’ all around!” she said enthusiastically.

“Through the American Latina Leadership Caucus and the Assets and Capital Investment initiatives, we are combining leadership and capital aiming at vacancies of high impact. Especially in an electoral year, we will remain focused on supporting Latinos across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans alike, following our organization’s non-partisan tradition,” Avila concluded.

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum Latina leadership in social philanthropy

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum social philanthropy

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, President and CEO, Edwin Gould Foundation

A child gets a polio vaccine in Nigeria, a homeless person in Chicago finds shelter and a hot meal or a teenage girl in Brazil is the first to finish high school in her family. These “little miracles” happen every day without big headlines thanks to the world of social philanthropy, a complex universe that requires the action of thousands of organizations working for the most inconceivable causes around the world.

The Edwin Gould Foundation (EGF) is one of 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in existence in the USA. And they happen to have a Latina at their helm, another little miracle that does not happen frequently.

“Women, and specially Latinas are not well represented in the philanthropic sector,” said Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, the EGF President and Chief Executive Officer. “It is traumatic the low level of Latinas in high level positions in the nonprofit sector,” she shared with

Under Cynthia’s leadership, EGF –an organization that helps motivated low-income students get to and through college– has also launched an accelerator for nonprofits focused on that same mission. The accelerator is a unique combination that includes incubation services, grant making and advocacy focused on improving educational outcomes for low-income youth.

“My own parents never made it to college so mentorship for me was –and continues to be– a personal challenge,” she shared. Her father was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, and her mother in Coamo, Puerto Rico. They both moved to the United States and met in Manhattan, soon starting a growing family that lived in the Tri-State area. Her parents never attended college but they were very committed to putting their three daughters through higher education.

Mentorship in social philanthropy

As a leader in the foundation, she made her personal mission to mentor as many young women involved in advocacy in the New York region as she could. “As women, we have to raise awareness that giving everything we have to our families and our work, little is left for us,” she affirmed.

“I was delighted to become part of the New America Alliance American Latina Caucus because connections and mentoring are very important for Latinas. It is uplifting to be part of this group that is committed to define and support the power of American Latina leaders,” she said.

Talking one-on-one with mentors and finding a group of diverse people that can advise you on different aspects of your life and career is her suggestion to her mentees. “We need guidance and we need to build relationships that allow us to talk about everything that is of our concern, for instance, money, family or career.”

Unfortunately, she believes women still have it very hard in the work environment when it comes to career and family. Women are still seen as the parent responsible for childcare and caregiving, and many career opportunities are not offered to women for that reason.

“The 50/50 balance between men and women related to caring for their children is an illusion,” she said. “Your partner has to understand that it might come the time when the balance is 80/20 and they have to be ready to take the challenge,” she affirmed.

Cynthia Rivera Edwin Gould Foundation social philanthropy

The Edwin Gould Foundation caters to disadvantaged students from low-income families.

Male and female leadership in social philanthropy

Cynthia has built strong relationship with male mentors throughout her career as well because men have a different perspective on issues, she said. “Instead of being confrontational, we need to navigate through and nurture our relationship with men. Sometimes women we get on the ‘treadmill’ and just keep going; men can help us stop and see more clearly the complexity of a situation or given circumstances,” she noted.

Before her leadership at EGF, she served as Director of the New York State Mentoring Program, and later, as CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), which developed SEO Scholars, one of the premier college preparatory programs in the country.

Cynthia currently sits on the board of Philanthropy New York, Year Up, Fund for Modern Courts and is a member of Hispanics in Philanthropy, New America Alliance and the Donor’s Forum, to name a few. She is a frequent television commentator and has lectured at Columbia University, the Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Conference, and the National Council for Community and Education Partnership.   She will be a panelist at the 15th New America Alliance Wall Street Summit this October of 2015.

Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila spearheading the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus

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“Leadership is the behavior that brings the future to the present, by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help you make it a reality.” – Matt Barney, founder and CEO, LeaderAmp
Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila, New America Alliance’s CEO

At last year’s New America Alliance Wall Street Summit, a new initiative to increase the presence of Latinas in strategic business and civic positions was announced: The American Latina Leadership Caucus. Now, the Caucus is ready to launch in cities around the country.

“For a long time, the New America Alliance has celebrated and recognized American Latino women’s achievements. However, NAA leaders feel there is still a great need to increase the presence of Latina leaders in every corner of this country’s economic and political life,” said Maria del Pilar Avila, CEO, New America Alliance (NAA).

According to Avila, the Caucus is an opportunity for Latinas to be part of a group of influencers who will provide inside intelligence and information about board, corporate, political or non-profit openings while identifying the right candidates from their personal and professional networks.

“The idea is to encourage Latina leadership in different sectors, industries, markets and even across generations as well as to have a balanced vision of diverse Latina’s backgrounds. Through a communication mechanism, these influencers will seek recommendations to search for candidates, exchange biographies and resumes, have conversations with potential candidates, and help them move forward once the right candidates are identified,” she explained.

American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

Avila herself is a true example of the type of leadership the organization is trying to support. After serving as founding NAA’s Executive Director from 1999 to 2005, Pilar rejoined the organization in May 2010 as Chief Executive Officer.

She personifies the NAA mission of accelerating the economic, political and human capital development of the American Latino community to build a stronger America. Under her leadership, NAA launched the Wall Street Summit, now in its 15th year. The Summit, a three-day event held in the financial capital of the world, brings to the forefront the contribution of American Latinos to the US economy and advocates for a greater inclusion of members of this community across several sectors.

Some of the event’s segments include the Pension Fund Initiative, which has opened access to billions of dollars for diverse asset managers as well as increase access to capital to Latino entrepreneurs; the new session #NewGenR3, A New Generation of American Latino Leaders: Renovate, Remix, Rise, which focused on the rise of new Latino leaders who are redefining their pathways to success and strengthening the pipeline of new leaders moving our nation forward; and the U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon, featuring insights into economic development and growth, improvement in education systems, expansion of infrastructure and community engagement across America’s cities.

 U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon at the NAA Wall Street Summit 2014

U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon at the NAA Wall Street Summit 2014

Now, this new initiative is at the heart of Avila’s commitment to the organization’s leadership. “Less than one percent of Latinas hold high corporate and/or leadership positions,” said the CEO. “We need to build new connections, strengthen the relationships among members of the Caucus, and increase the presence of these leaders who bring particular skills to any decision table,” Avila affirmed.

Caucus participation will be by referral or invitation only. Potential candidates will be seeking some level of recommendation from members of the organization.  “We are hosting a series of introductory dinner conversations to extend our invitation and gather recommendations from the extraordinary group of Latinas we seek to engage,” Avila said.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Avila’s grandparents were farmers; however, they instilled the eagerness for education in their descendants. Avila’s career started in hospitality management at the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau and the Caribe Hilton, after she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business and Hospitality Management from the University of Central Florida.

“It was a hard experience to come to the United States and face the world as a woman, a Puerto Rican and a Spanish-speaking immigrant,” she recalls. It took a hard process of acculturation for her to become a Latina, a very different experience coming from “La Isla” to the diaspora.

From 1996 to 1999, Avila was Vice President of Marketing & Events at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. At that position, she built a strong network of Latino entrepreneurs in key U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico markets while immersing herself in the complexity of Latino participation in business development, political advocacy and the advancement of corporate America.

New Generation NAA

A New Generation of American Latino Leaders panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

After her first round serving at the New America Alliance, in 2005 Avila joined Palladium Equity Partners as Vice President of Marketing, where she became mainly responsible for strategic marketing initiatives, investor relations, and the strengthening of the Palladium brand.  She was part of the team that raised a historic Hispanic market investment fund of $780 million in 2006.

Avila was recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Influentials” in 2010. She was also recognized as one of the “20 Most Influential and Outstanding Hispanic Women in Business” by Hispanic Trends Magazine (now PODER Enterprise). In 2004, she was awarded the New America Alliance Chairmen’s Leadership Award.

She now serves as Vice Chair of the Board of ConPRmetidos, a Puerto Rican millennial-led think-and-do tank working to transform the economy of the Island by linking Puerto Ricans to leaders stateside who can develop and facilitate economic opportunities for Puerto Rico.

“Our American Latina Leadership Caucus schedule has been set for seven cities around the country –some of the meeting dates to be confirmed. We expect to bring together more experienced leaders along with emerging ones to introduce them to build new connections. Also, we would like to bolster business development opportunities among its members and channel their energy to the next level of their success,” Avila concluded.

Follow the Caucus meetings’ schedule:

  • Washington DC – June 9
  • New York – June 10
  • Chicago – June 17
  • Los Angeles – July/August
  • San Antonio – September
  • Dallas – September
  • Miami – September