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12 latina leaders

12 Latina leaders honored in 2020

This past year has been challenging like no other but among the turbulent times, powerful Latinas rose up as inspirational leaders. As we look back on this year here at Latinas In Business, let us take a moment to honor and celebrate our Latina Leaders of 2020 and reflect on their inspirational journeys and the wisdom they have shared with us. 

Our 2020 Latina Leaders

Latina Leader of January: Judy Justin 

professional photography

Judy Justin, founder at Judy Justin Photography

In January,  U.S. Navy veteran, mother, and a professional photographer, Judy Justin taught us all about the power of confidence and the importance of our images in personal branding. What began as a hobby for Judy soon became her flourishing business, Judy Justin Photography. Judy shared how she was drawn to portrait photography especially, because it allows her to connect with her clients on a more personal level. Through that personal connection, her clients become more relaxed and confident during their sessions, and that confidence is key to creating the perfect image. 

For the fellow entrepreneurs, Judy suggested that we all especially take care of our images. Images are everything in branding. 

“A good set of professional portraits or pictures can say so much about you. It is sad when you see people in high positions -especially on social media- with pictures cropped from a wedding or social pictures, or worst yet, no picture at all! Your image is your first business card, and it speaks volumes about you and your business.” 

As we head into a new January, let us be mindful of our images and infuse them with confidence and authenticity. 

Latina Leader of February: Jacqueline Camacho 

Visionary social entrepreneur and Latina leader, Jacqueline Camacho.

In February, visionary social entrepreneur, Jacqueline Camacho taught us to be fearless and go for our dreams. Her life motto: “Taking off is optional, landing on your dreams is mandatory.” Leading by example, Jacqueline has soared for her own dreams and achieved so much in a short time. At only 36, she has founded two award-winning companies, established two nonprofit organizations, published sixteen books, created over ten products, and held dozens of events around the world. She also achieved her personal dream of becoming a sports airplane pilot! 

Jacqueline showed us all that anything is possible. Often referred to as a “dream catcher,” Jacqueline uses her strategies as a speaker, author, and entrepreneur to support thousands of women to live a life of significance. Additionally, she created the anthology book series,  Today’s Inspired Latina to share the success stories of Latinas and inspire hope and motivation “for anyone sitting on a dream and thinking it can’t come true.” 

Latina Leader of March: Sara Peña

community empowerment

Sara Pena, Director, Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development at NJ Department of State.

In March, professional and community, Sara Peña, shared with us the many lessons she has learned about community empowerment, self-empowerment, and success. As a Newark native and daughter of immigrant parents, she has strived in her career to empower Latinos, especially the youth, through advocacy, legislature, and mentorship. 

Currently she is the Director of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in the NJ Department of State, as well as the founder of the Boys to Leaders Foundation. Through her work as a community leader, Sara has created opportunities for young Latinos and provided  leadership training, educational programs, and positive personal and professional development. 

Sara also shared with us her 5 best tips for self-empowerment and success: Understand Finances, Grow Personally, Build and Nurture Relationships, and Self-Care. You can read all about them and more in Sara’s feature article

Latina Leader of April:  Wendy Garcia

resources for women

Wendy Garcia, Chief Diversity Officer of the NYC Office of the Comptroller

In April, as the COVID pandemic hit, Latinas In Business hosted a Virtual Meeting: COVID-19: NY Resources for Minority and Women Small Businesses (Public and Private), to share financial assistance and other resources from federal, state, and City government, and the private sector. Here, guest speaker Wendy Garcia, Chief Diversity Officer from the Office of the New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, provided crucial information on resources for minorities, women, and all small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

As Chief Diversity Officer, Wendy Garcia is responsible for increasing contracting opportunities for Women- and Minority-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and managing the Comptroller Office’s internal supplier diversity initiative, as well as other diversity related projects across all bureaus of the agency. Ms. Garcia also leads the Comptroller’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth through Diversity and Inclusion – a group comprised of national, local, corporate, and government experts seeking to increase supplier diversity in the public and private sectors.

Latina Leader of May: Alicia Puig 

Alicia Puig, Co-founder of PxP Contemporary.

In May, Alicia Puig introduced us to the world of digital art galleries as the COVID pandemic kept us stuck at home. Alicia co-founded  PxP Contemporary with artist Ekaterina Popova. The platform was founded as a fully digital art gallery that connects collectors with high-quality, affordable artworks. Alicia and Ekaterina created PxP as a way to challenge the traditional art gallery model and make the process of buying art a more accessible, digital-friendly experience. And it came at the perfect time too! 

As we all became confined to our homes, the PxP gallery provided an escape from our boredom. The digital gallery, even in non-COVID times, is also a great way to make art more accessible to everyone. 

“It was a deliberate choice that we embraced being fully digital from the beginning, and I’m glad we did,” Alicia said. Additionally, PxP strived for inclusivity of all identities in the artists they represent. “Being a minority and understanding what it’s like to not have certain advantages helped Kat and I identify a gap in our industry and seek to address it via our gallery.” 

Looking back, we are so glad to have had PxP brighten our lockdown with beautiful, diverse art. 

Latina Leader of June: Albania Rosario

Albania Rosario, founder and CEO, Fashion Designers of Latin America.

In June, Albania showed us the power of innovation and adapting to our new post-COVID world. As more and more events were being canceled due to the pandemic, Albania and her team at Fashion Designers of Latin America (FDLA) were innovating and crafting new ways to bring their fashion show to New York Fashion Week. They decided to go virtual, creating a digital experience for audiences across the world. 

We were inspired by Albania’s perseverance during these tough times. Through FDLA, she helped support other struggling artists and designers, shining a spotlight on their stories and fundraising through her project “Las Caras Detrás De La Moda En Latino América.” The campaign features hundreds of video clips from designers across the globe telling their stories and testimonies about how the pandemic has affected their businesses and what they are doing to help.

“I strongly believe that every bad situation comes with a new opportunity but we must be ready to see it,” says Albania. “If we focus only on the negative, it will be impossible to find new opportunities. We have to face the obstacles that come across our path. This is what life is about.” 

Latina Leader of July: Jessica Asencio 

Jessica K Asencio

Jessica K Asencio (RIP) (Photo Courtesy of Jessica’s friends)

In July, we remembered and celebrated the life of Latina leader, Jessica Asencio.  Born in Ecuador and raised in Brooklyn, NYC, Jessica dedicated her life to supporting Latino-Hispanic causes and uplifting their voices in the workplace. Jessica became a D&I leader, and was recognized as a Diversity Champion at JPMorgan Chase.

She also served on the Global Adelante Board–JPMorgan Chase’s Latino/Hispanic Business Resource Group– and founded the Latino Networks Coalition (LNC), originally inaugurated in 2010 by JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte and Thomson Reuters. The coalition was launched with additional partners including American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, Credit Suisse and The New York Times.

Jessica was remembered by friends, family, and colleagues as an extraordinary and passionate leader who left a lasting impact on everyone she met.

“Jessica Asencio was an incredible diversity and inclusion leader and a leader in Hispanic causes, but most importantly she was an incredible friend,” said Patricia Pacheco de Baez, Bank of America HOLA NY Executive Advisory Board Emeritus Chair.

“Jessica made everyone feel we were part of something bigger than ourselves, even before knowing what we were a part of,” said friend and colleague Frank D. Sanchez. 

“She was a leader who led by example with optimism, strength, devotion, and focus,” says Alicia Garcia, friend, and Latino Networks Coalition’s Leader.

Latina Leader of September: Beth Marmolejos

In September, Beth Marmolejos was a champion for change. As a business leader, activist and advocate, Beth made her 2020 a time for collaboration. Some of her personal highlights of 2020 included community driven projects such as co-founding the FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of Greater Wayne and advocated for the opening of the 1st Inclusion Playground in Wayne, NJ. Later in the year, Beth also co-hosted Latina In Business’  first Virtual 2020 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit which gathered national and international speakers for an inspirational event focused on promoting “The Power of Collaborations in a Post-COVID World.”  

“Collaborations are vital to achieve success and soar! ‘The Power of Collaboration’ created a nеw energy that I felt was ‘bіggеr than our individual efforts.’ We effесtіvеlу put together resources, energy, tаlеntѕ and gоаlѕ to раvеѕ thе wау for thе ѕuссеѕѕ that we had рlаnned tоgеthеr achieving unexpected benefits,” said Beth. 

Beth’s personal mottos for getting through this year has been #RiseUpTogether. Together, we are all more powerful and successful. 

Latina Leader of October: Maria Elena Salinas

Maria Elena Salinas

Maria Elena Salinas, award-winning journalist and speaker.

In October, Latinas In Business hosted the Regain Our Latino Power event and we were honored to have award-winning journalist Maria Elena Salinas as keynote speaker. The event brought together influential Latino leaders to discuss important topics such as Latinxs essential workers, Latinxs and the economy, Immigration Reform, Deportations and Incarceration of Latino Children.

In a career that spans nearly four decades, Salinas has interviewed world leaders and covered virtually every major national and international news event of our time. Her work has earned the top awards presented in broadcasting, including multiple Emmys, a Peabody, Gracie Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.

While at CBS News, Salinas has contributed to the network’s coverage of the 2020 election including primetime coverage of Super Tuesday and the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Salinas also anchored the poignant CBS News documentary “Pandemia: Latinos In Crisis,” an hour-long, sweeping look at the Latinx community, along with other communities of color, who continues to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic while fulfilling essential roles across the country.

Her tremendous drive, talent, and success is truly an inspiration to us all. 

Latina Leader of November: Maria Piastre

In November Maria Piastre reminded us that success is possible, even in traditionally male-dominated industries such as the metal industry. President of  Metallix Refining Inc. Maria said, “The only limits are the ones you set yourself.” 

When Maria first joined Metallix in 2006, she never thought she would one day be President. However, through perseverance and hard-work, she climbed the ladder and found herself in that very position today. Her story reminds us all that nothing is impossible. 

Throughout her early career, Maria’s tenacity for success and recognition became her armor against the many inequalities she would encounter. Later these inequalities would form the foundation for future campaigns and ultimately help her achieve her goals and dreams.

She shared with Latinas In Business, “As an immigrant to the US, I know only too well the challenges we all will encounter, especially for minority groups. The road will not always be smooth, and regardless of your cultural background, you should believe in yourself, your self-worth, your ability to succeed and that your qualities will always shine through to achieve rewards.” 

Latina Leader of December: Mariela Dabbah

Mariela Dabbah, TEDx and International speaker, award-winning, best-selling author and go-to corporate authority for Fortune 500 companies. 

Finally, this month, TEDx and International speaker, award-winning, best-selling author, Mariela Dabbah, showed us that the fight for gender equality in the workplace is far from over. The pandemic unfortunately has had adverse effects on working women. Mariela shared some of these insights with us, speaking on how many women and minorities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 

Recent research shows women have been much more affected by the pandemic, with one in four considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. 

“This is connected to the fact that women and particularly women with diverse backgrounds and with disabilities have less resources needed to support them at this time. Primarily, reasons include women tending to be the person in charge of childcare, but also, they generally make less than their male counterparts. When a decision needs to be made of who in the household will quit their job, it’s usually women,” said Mariela. 

Amid these statistics, Mariela and her team rose to help women struggling through this time.

“We launched the #InclusionIsNotOnPause initiative to remind everyone that we needed to keep our eyes on the gender-inclusion ball or we’d lose a lot of our hard-earned gains of the past few decades. This initiative provides a set of tactics that organizations can implement to openly show their support for inclusion of all its talent.”

As we enter the new year, let us all remember the lessons and wisdom we have learned from our Latina leaders and carry these insights into the new year. We can’t wait to see what more we will learn in 2021. Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year! 

Introducing Latinas in Business Inc. Executive Board Members

In a simple virtual ceremony last Friday, five new Trustees were sworn in to Latinas in Business Inc. Executive Board. The 2020 Annual Executive Board Meeting welcomed member’s Beth Marmolejos, Pilar Avila, Danay Escanaverino, Adriane Medeiros, and Maria Santiago-Valentin into their new positions as Board Members. 

Present also was the Founder President and CEO, Susana G Baumann, and one of the Founder Board Members of the organization, Brenda Nava. Brenda now leaves the position of Treasurer to stay on the Board as a Committee Member and passes the torch of Treasurer on to Pilar Avila. 

Executive Board

Latinas in Business Inc. Executive Board Members

On the new Executive Board, Baumann said:

“I’m ecstatic that this group of unstoppable Latinas are coming in to strengthen and grow our organization at a national level. We are extremely grateful for their time and efforts, which are already bringing results in the crucial event we are launching this October 16 and October 23 to energize the Latino Vote. This was my vision for Latinas in Business, a group of young and determined Latinas who will take the torch, the symbol of our logo, and run with it. My legacy as a woman, mother, Latina and immigrant will remain in an organization by Latinas and for Latinas.” 

Introducing the LIB’s Executive Board 

Brenda Nava, Founder Executive Board

Brenda Nava, Founder Executive Board 

Brenda Nava is an avant-garde Hispanic entrepreneur who entered business at the age of 23. Currently the owner and founder of various businesses, including CEO at Daniela Events and CEO at Dafer Business Development Solutions.

With degrees in International Business, Accounting, Taxes and Business Development, Brenda is focused on sharing her experience and knowledge with her community. With several years of experience in the business field, she knows that education is an important foundation for the success of every entrepreneur and is committed to being an example and supporting the development of the community.

Beth Marmolejos, Programs and Events Coordinator & LIB Vice President 

Beth Marmolejos is a business leader, activist, and advocate who strives toward serving as an champion for change daily in both her personal and professional life. Beth serves on numerous boards that support and serve these communities. Some of her positions include  Madame Chair of the Passaic County Workforce Investment Board, Chair of the Passaic County Advocacy and Abilities Committee and Diversity & Inclusion Chair of the American Association of University Women – Greater Wayne Area, and President of the New Jersey Prospanica Chapter, formerly known as The National Society of Hispanics MBAs. 

Pilar Avila, Governance & Treasurer

Pilar Avila, Governance & Treasurer 

Pilar Avila is the founder and host of interDUCTUS, an organizational change management consulting practice, & Renovad, which provides experiential retreats to countries around the world. She is a passionate human striving for higher self-awareness, health, happiness, living free, eradicating judgment and lifting every living being with compassion. As a business and civic change leader, Pilar is strategic, innovative and results-oriented. She launched  interDUCTUS & Renovad after over 26 years providing leadership at institutions across private equity, hospitality, and nonprofit sectors. 

 

Danay Escanaverino, Marketing and Outreach

Danay Escanaverino, Marketing and Outreach

Danay Escanaverino is the CEO of LunaSol Media, a digital agency she has owned for 9 years to help brands connect with Hispanic consumers online. She is also the Founder of MiraClick, an affiliate network for Hispanic and Latino bloggers and creators to monetize their following with campaigns made for Latinos. She is passionate about marketing and technology and her goal is to  help Hispanic entrepreneurs expand their reach through her expertise and services and specifically expand the Hispanic market and unite and support Hispanic businesses. 

Adriane Medeiros, Trustee

Adriane Medeiros, Trustee 

Adriane Medeiros is a Financial Services Professional with New York Life Insurance Company and specializes in life insurance and retirement investment planning. She is a tremendous resource to our community, offering financial tips, seminars, and one-on-one appointments in financial and investment planning. Originally born in Brazil, she has lived in New Jersey for over 32 years and has a degree in Business with a minor in Economics and Finances, from Kean University in New Jersey. Adriane strives to help all her clients achieve a life of abundance and financial empowerment through investment planning so that they can support their families for generations to come.

classroom inclusion

Maria Santiago-Valentin, Trustee

Maria Santiago-Valentin, Trustee 

Maria Santiago-Valentin is a fierce activist, educator, and author who uses her platform to advocate for quality education, classroom inclusion, and environmental causes. A passionate, energetic and creative educator with over twenty-five years of experience in her field, she has taught in Puerto Rico, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and has been recognized for her achievements nationally and internationally. One of the founding members of CURE  — Community United for the Renaissance in Education– a bilingual parent advocacy group working to improve the educational system in New London, Connecticut, Maria has dedicated her life to making the pursuit of knowledge accessible to all. She is also the founder of the NJ Coalition for Climate Justice, an organization that works to bring together social justice movements with environmental movements.

Upcoming event: Regain Our Latino Power 

The main topic of discussion at the year’s Annual Executive Board Meeting was the upcoming virtual event: Regain Our Latino Power. The multi-day event will take place on the two upcoming Fridays: October 16th and October 23rd. 

With less than six weeks until the election, Regain Our Latino Power will focus on discussions about Latinxs essential workers, Latinxs and the economy, Immigration Reform, Deportations and Incarceration of Latino Children and more. The event will also feature guest speakers from Latina Leaders including Keynote Speaker, Maria Elena Salinas. 

We are calling YOU and all Latina leaders because these are URGENT TOPICS TO DISCUSS.

Register now for this FREE virtual event! 

TENTATIVE AGENDA

Friday October 16, 2020 12pm to 2pm EST – 9am to 11am PST

  1. COVID-19 AND ESSENTIAL WORKERS: More protection for Latinxs frontline workers in factories and farms dying of COVID-19; more testing, sick-time leave and protection equipment.

Sign our petition to both Houses of Congress

  1. INCARCERATION OF UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN: We demand the immediate freedom of ALL immigrant children held at deportation facilities where COVID-19 has been detected. They are victims of abuse and neglect; their lives are in our hands, and they are OUR children!

Sign our petition to both Houses of Congress

  1. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR FAMILIES: We request additional financial assistance for families who lost their jobs by no fault of their own; both parties are dragging their feet in approving funding to help families with essential needs.

Sign our petition to both Houses of Congress

Friday October 23, 2020 12pm to 2pm – 9am to 11am PST

  1. IMMIGRATION REFORM: Stop massive deportations that hurt regional economies and break immigrant families. Immigrants bring significant income and tax revenue to regional economies, while provide vital work that bring food and essential products to our homes and our tables

Sign our petition to both Houses of Congress

  1. SMALL BUSINESS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: Finally, we also request immediate forgiveness for small businesses who received PPP Loans of $150,000 or less. Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs are closing their doors every day. They need OUR help!

Sign our petition to both Houses of Congress

6. WHAT’S NEXT FOR LATINOS IN THE USA? How will future generations of Latinxs live and succeed in this country? What is left of the AMERICAN DREAM?

Latina leadership

Corporate executive Beth Marmolejos shares insights on being a Latina leader

How hard is it to become a Latina leader? Throughout her career, Beth Marmolejos has risen to leadership roles and achieved great success in her field.  Her story offers some insights and advice to other aspiring Latina leaders.  

Latina leadership

Beth Marrazini-Marmolejos

Bethania “Beth” Marrazini-Marmolejos is a passionate, hard-working corporate executive with 25 plus years experience in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industries. She is currently employed by Anthem in New York City where she serves as an IT Executive Advisor for the New York and Wisconsin markets.

Beth began her corporate career in 1987, working as a Data Sales Entry analyst for MEDCO Health Solutions Accounting Department in Franklin Lakes, NJ. She began this job with no college credits and through her years with the company she was able to earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Eighty-percent of her courses were paid for by her employer as long as she maintained her grades.  After ten years of intensive coursework, Beth graduated with honors earning a Bachelors in Accounting and a Masters in Finance.

While she worked toward earning her degrees, Beth continued to move up through various roles within the Finance department at MEDCO. These experiences helped prepare Beth for the leaderships roles that would soon follow in her career.

Seeing challenges as opportunities for Latina leadership

Latina leadership

Beth Marmolejos Speaker at Bellas Fashionistas NY 2018 with Founder Flerisel Bello

One story Beth shares is when at MEDCO, her company bought a subsidiary called “Accredo” for $2B. At this time, both the President of that subsidiary and Beth’s boss, the Vice President of Financing and Pricing, decided to leave. “That challenge was a blessing for me,” says Beth. As the Senior Manager of Finance, Beth was propelled into a major leadership role helping the company through the acquisition and integration of the subsidiary.

“Then, I was young and did not realize what a huge undertaking and responsibility this was, I just faced the situation head on and did my job,” she explains. “That being said, the opportunity opened doors for me to be flying on the company’s jet with senior leaders to Memphis…and got a promotion to Director of Finance after the acquisition was completed,” says Beth.  “The moral of the story is that I was able to remain calm and focus despite the challenges, and ended up getting promoted.”

Later in 2013, Beth left MEDCO to work in New York City for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield under the leadership of Brian Griffin, an old colleague of Beth’s from MEDCO. Here she continued to rise quickly, earning the title of Director after only six months of starting at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Beginning in 2016, Beth started working as IT Executive Advisor for the state of New York and Wisconsin for Empire’s parent company, Anthem. Here she continues to be someone people love to work with. She believes her Latina roots give her an edge above her peers and have led her to success within her field. She faces every situation with a can-do mentality and positive energy– traits that have been fostered in her through her Latina upbringing.

When working with others she always treats people with respect. “I truly and genuinely make everyone feel valued and that comes from the Latina in me! We love people!” says Beth.

“Latinindad,” a challenge or a benefit for Latina leadership

Latina leadership

Community Leader Honoree from North Jersey Federal Credit Union with Arlene Quinones Perez, Esq and Lourdes Cortez, President.

Beth also cites that one challenge she has faced throughout her years in her field is often being the only Latina in her department. At times she has felt that she needs to “tone down” her passion and enthusiasm to project at a more Executive level. This act of self-censorship is difficult because “As you know, we Latinas are very passionate!” says Beth.

Another challenge has been dealing with people that do not share her same business ethics and moral compass. These people often become hindrances as they do not understand Beth’s enthusiasm or misinterpret her desire to help as having a hidden agenda.  Still, Beth does not let these people discourage her.

You might be interested: Arlene Quinones-Perez opening speaker at Female Leadership Business Retreat

Throughout her years of experience she has learned many insights. To other Latinas searching for success in their own careers, Beth shares that “when you treat people with respect…that creates a good reputation that you can leverage to obtain better opportunities within your organization.” She believes that the key to obtaining leadership roles is to be a “can-do type of person” and to be happy, positive, and knowledgeable as these traits will attract others to want to work with you.

Beth’s story shows what can be achieved through hard work and a good attitude. She has risen through various positions in her field and now occupies a Latina leadership role across many organizations.  She hopes to help other Hispanic professionals achieve success, especially Latinas, by opening doors to help them move forward.

“I am eager to…make sure that more people that look like me are at the leadership table with me.”