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“We need to speak up about social justice” says Prospanica CEO Thomas Savino

Thomas Savino is the Chief Executive Officer of Prospanica, the nationally recognized and premier nonprofit dedicated to developing Hispanic talent and growing the number of Hispanic professionals represented in the industries of America to perpetuate economic growth and corporate competitiveness.

Recently Thomas spoke to Latinas in Business CEO and President, Susana G Baumann in an interview, where they discussed how Prospanica is working to address social justice issues through its new Center for Social Justice. 

Celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Center for Social Justice was established with the mission to  “improve our ability to have critical conversations about social justice issues as a diverse and multi-faceted community. We want to encourage civil discourse and make it easier and more available.” 

Three driving forces in the creations of the Center for Social Justice

Through the Center for Social Justice, Prospanica is taking an important step toward addressing the most pressing social issues affecting the Hispanic community today. 

Before the creation of the Center, Prospanica, like many organizations, steered clear of these topics. For a long time, corporations and organizations avoided conversations about divisive topics such as social justice issues. 

However, in recent years there has been a noticeable shift, especially in corporate America. Social issues are now at the forefront of every conversation. People want to know where the corporations and companies they trust stand on these issues. This shift is one of the three main drivers that lead to the creation of the Center.

“Corporate America is far different, say from 1988 than it is today. If we look at the conversations and the statements they’re making, and the efforts they’re making, the conversation is vastly different,” said Thomas. “And the way they’re trying to open and change their culture is far more compelling today than it was, frankly, even five years ago, right, let alone in 1990. There are all sorts of experts out there, corporate CEOs of Fortune 500 companies saying we must have a just society, and here are the issues….We see this all over the place and so that’s one key thing, that corporations who are key funders to everything we do have essentially changed where they are.” 

With corporations now opening up to having these conversations, came the need for education and training in how to have these conversations. This was the second key driver in the creation of the Center. 

“I think because we’ve never spoken about it, it’s a missing component of what we speak about as Prospanica. We want to promote education, but social justice issues impact the Hispanic community and how we get educated. They impact how you know, how we graduate, where we live, all those sorts of things. So it’s important to fold it in, it’s a missing piece of what we talked about when we want to work with safe young professionals doing professional development. So that’s the second piece we’ve never really addressed,” said Thomas. 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Lastly, the third driver was Generation Z and the events of the past year. From the pandemic to social unrest, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more, it became clear that there was a need in the community for these discussions and conversations surrounding social issues. 

Among all of this, Generation Z has been leading the way and pushing for action and impact. “What they’re saying is, you got to have an impact now. And so you got to address these things head-on,” Thomas said. “The younger people expect the corporations where they work and where they put their money to address these issues now.”  

Opening the conversation 

The Center for Social Justice was overwhelmingly well received. Still, there were some, particularly those of older generations, who questioned and challenged its purpose. For many, the issues that the Center would address were topics that older generations had been taught not to speak about. 

The first goal of the Center was born out of this reluctance to speak out. Part of the Center’s mission is to help teach and prepare members to speak about these subjects in a professional, non divisive manner. 

“We didn’t grow up learning to have these types of discussions,” said Thomas. “So this is a way of professional development, another way to teach our professionals wherever you go, you name it doesn’t matter what your politics are, you can speak about this in a professional, non-divisive manner. And then it’s a way for the organization as a whole to start researching these things and learn a lot more.” 

The Center for Social Justice combines research, dialogue, and training to educate and inform. Tackling social issues such as DACA and Immigration Reform, The Afro Latino Experience, Black Allyship, The Black Lives Matter Movement, Colorism in Latino History, and more the Center is committed to having open conversations about the issues affecting the Hispanic community today. 

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Only in their first year, the Center is still growing and building, with initiatives such as supporting the Hispanic Promise and opening scholarships up to DACA students, something they had previously never done before. Still, as a nonprofit organization, Prospanica remains cautious as they navigate political and social issues. Here is where the partnership with other organizations is key. 

“We’re still very careful with the political world. Well, one because listen, we’re not very experienced with that. And to the politicians can be tough. I’d rather go talk to my peers at Unidos U.S. and LULAC, for instance, and kind of get their take on it,” said Thomas. 

Through collaboration, dialogue, and partnership, the conversation continues as the Center works to address and educate professionals on these cultural social issues to create a better, more just, and diverse world for current and future generations. 

Why more minority founders aren’t backed by venture capital funding

Funding for any new business venture is a critical step that will often determine its ultimate success. Many businesses sink far too early in the process when founders are unable to secure access to capital. Unfortunately, women and minority business owners are more likely to be denied venture capital funding and bank loans compared to white, male founders.  

Why aren’t more minority founders backed by venture capital funding? (Business card photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com)

According to an article by Forbes, in the past year, only 2.6% of venture dollars went to minorities and 2.2% went to women. In total, that is only $4.2 billion out of the $87.3 billion venture capital was distributed. Additionally, as of January 2021, only 93 Black and 58 Latinx women have ever raised over $1M.

This lack of VC funding for women- and minority-owned businesses is part of an ongoing cycle and diversity issue within the entire venture capital process. The fact of the matter is, diverse venture capitalists (VCs) and limited partners (LPs) will be more likely to invest in diverse founders and entrepreneurs. But so far, these roles have been saturated predominantly by white, male individuals. 

Breaking old patterns 

In an article by Fast Company, Leah Solivan discusses her experiences in securing venture capital funding for her startup and shares ideas on how the old pattern can be broken. In sharing her experience she describes how she first struggled to secure funding because she “didn’t match the pattern.” As a woman and a Latina, these modifiers made her an “other” in the eyes of traditional venture capitalists. She was not the typical founder. 

“VCs had an idea of what successful founders looked like, and they didn’t look like me,” Leah shared in her article. “It took another woman of color hearing my pitch to open up opportunities for me. And that woman, Ann Miura-Ko, was only in a position to say “yes” to me because another VC (Floodgate’s Mike Maples) took a chance on her. As a founder and CEO, I recruited a diverse team of talented individuals who brought different backgrounds and life experiences to the table. Many of these people have gone on to become founders themselves, building their own teams. Others have gone on to become venture capitalists. This is the virtuous cycle of wealth creation in action. And all it took to get it going was one VC deciding to take a chance on someone who didn’t match the pattern.”

This process that she describes is exactly how we can work to break old patterns within the venture capital process. We need diverse LPs who can then fund venture capital funds. And diverse VCs will then seek out and fund diverse founders. These founders can then give opportunities to their diverse team members and employees who can then grow to become their own founders or investors. 

Minority business owners and entrepreneurs, especially Latinos, have great potential to grow and thrive with the right backing. According to the Stanford Research 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report, Latinos are starting businesses at a faster rate than the national average across several industries, growing 34 percent over the last 10 years compared to just 1 percent for all other small businesses. Additionally, the report showed that over the past two-years, Latino-owned firms grew revenue at an average of 25 percent per year while white-owned businesses grew revenue at 19 percent.

Moreover, much of the growth in the number of new businesses among Latinos has been driven by women. Latinas represent 40% of all Latino business owners and the number of Latina-led employer firms has grown 20% within the last five-year period.

Forbes also reported that in the last year, 40% of new businesses were started by women and 47% of those businesses were started by minority women. 

You might be interested: Dr. Marlene Orozco demystifies misconceptions about Latinas through data 

We need diverse venture capitalists to support diverse founders

“Capital remains in the communities that manage it,” says Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital. Earlier this year, Ivelisse spoke as a panelist during Latina in Business’ virtual panel, “Latina Small Business Post-Covid: Recovery Resources and Trends. There she shared trends in investment capital and discussed why many women and minority owned businesses struggle to access capital. 

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital.

There’s about $70 trillion of capital to manage in the United States and only 1% of that capital is managed by women or people of color. So even though women and people of color represent 75% of the US population, we only manage 1% of the capital. And the result of that is that our communities don’t get access to that capital.” 

To break this cycle, we need diverse venture capitalists and limited partners. Ivelisse says that this is an issue Avante has been really committed to. “Not only supporting women and people of color managing businesses but really trying to get women and people of color into this industry to manage capital so that we can go out and find entrepreneurs from our communities and help them grow. Because if there are not many people in my seat that look like us, our people are never gonna get capital,” she says

Don’t miss our Summer Speakers Series and Networking Blast Events throughout August!  Interested in learning how to access business funding for your venture? Sign up for our August 11th workshop, “Resources to Increase Your Business Revenue.” 

While pushing for more diversity throughout the various positions in the venture capital funding process, we also need to hold venture capitalists accountable. It should not only be the job of diverse and minority venture capitalists to fund diverse founders and entrepreneurs. More venture capitalists need to be willing to take risks. After all, is that not the point of “venture” capitalists. 

As Leah Solivan nicely said, “Venture capital was once a business that took big bets on outsiders—it wasn’t long ago that the college drop-out computer nerd cliché was a novel, risky opportunity. As the industry has matured, we’ve defaulted to pattern matching (which too often means young, white males that resemble those once-novel success stories) instead of seeking out founders of different backgrounds, different geographies, different skill sets, and different demographics. Our current cycle tries to play it safe. There’s nothing virtuous about that, and it also runs contrary to the ethos of venture capital—which is about taking a chance on something or someone with the potential for disruption.” 

We need diversity in all stages of the venture capital process. We need to break-down old patterns and biases about what a founder looks like. And we need to hold traditional venture capitalists accountable and push them back to their roots, to take risks on something new, and take a chance on the underdog.

latinas in the workplace

How business leaders can spur diversity in the workplace 

A study conducted by The UPS Store identifies key strategies business leaders can utilize to drive diversity in the workplace.

The spotlight on inequality is driving increased dialogue and inspiring change on social and cultural levels, and the same is true of the business community.

According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, just 18% of businesses in the U.S. are minority-owned, even though minorities make up almost 40% of the population. However, a study conducted by The UPS Store, Inc. shows small businesses and their customers are also doing their part to promote inclusion and diversity.

Among small business owners with employees, 47% are actively trying to increase the diversity of their workforce, according to the survey. This momentum is particularly evident among younger small business owners, ages 18-45 (58%).

Strategies business leaders can use to continue promoting diversity in the workplace:

Communicating clearly about expectations

Set a policy of zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior and communicate it clearly throughout your business. Conduct a thorough audit of your typical communication channels to ensure your message is clear and consistent so there is no confusion about your expectations. This can include emails, signage and orientation materials. It’s important to recognize this won’t be a one-and-done exercise. Commit to issuing periodic reminders to reinforce your expectation for an inclusive culture.

Leading by example

Once your expectations have been defined, it’s up to you to demonstrate how they should be followed. This means taking stock of your business and any areas where you may not be upholding these standards. Ask for input from trusted advisors. You might even consider an audit by a third party to identify any discrepancies. Chances are, you’ll find at least one or two areas for improvement. Take swift and decisive action to make necessary changes, whether it means updating policies, modifying recruitment practices or other adjustments.

Creating programs that support minorities

One way businesses can turn intent into action is to create programs specifically designed to encourage minority participation. When it comes to inclusive ownership, franchising is leading compared to other industries, with nearly one-third (30.8%) of franchises being minority-owned compared to 18.8% of non-franchised businesses, according to an International Franchise Association study. One example is The UPS Store Minority Incentive Program, which provides eligible participants nearly $15,000 off the franchise fee for their first center.

This program, which applies to Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American franchisee candidates, is both an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and a solution meant to help consumers support minority-owned businesses. In addition, these new franchise owners will open a new store design with a focus on modern, tech-forward and open concept features. To learn more about the program and apply, visit theupsstorefranchise.com.*

Making training relevant for your business

The concept of diversity training isn’t new for many businesses, but it may be time to reassess your approach. Reciting a list of generic best practices to a senior leadership team does not constitute as training. Instead, consider creating a training session (or better yet, a series) that addresses the unique nuances of your business and culture. Work to incorporate principles of inclusion that relate to specific scenarios your staff may encounter and involve everyone at each level of the organization in the training.

Eliminating practices that exclude certain groups

Many traditional business practices completely overlook the good that can be gained from a more inclusive approach. In some cases, such as creating a time-off policy that accommodates holidays across different cultures, the benefits are in the form of employee morale. In other cases, such as flexible schedules for working parents, it may be the difference between successfully hiring the best candidate versus settling on someone who may not be the best fit for the position.

Implementing feedback systems

Learning better and doing better is an ongoing process, not a project to check off as completed. Part of refining your culture and creating a truly inclusive environment is enabling employees to report their concerns without fear of repercussions. Engaging your workforce, asking for input and genuinely listening may alert you to areas for improvement you never knew existed.

Creating a more inclusive workplace won’t happen overnight, but taking necessary steps can benefit your business as well as your workforce.

Leverage Consumer Support of Minority Business Owners

As the pandemic recedes, small business owners and entrepreneurs are still looking to receive support from their communities and peers.

A majority of consumers have committed within the past year to buy more products and services from small businesses, according to a survey by The UPS Store, Inc. In particular, consumers indicated plans to buy more from women-owned, Black-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

For entrepreneurial business leaders who aspire to own their own businesses, resources are available to help achieve that goal while providing consumers another avenue for supporting these types of businesses.

You might be interested: Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

One example is The UPS Store Minority Incentive Program, which offers eligible participants approximately 50% off the franchise fee. The program provides individuals the opportunity to turn their dreams of small-business ownership into reality by offering established brand strength, world-class training programs and a strong network of successful, helpful franchisees.

*This information is not intended as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy a franchise. It is for informational and design purposes only. The UPS Store, Inc. will not offer you a franchise unless and until it has complied with the applicable pre-sale registration and disclosure requirements in your state, as applicable, and provided you with a Franchise Disclosure Document. Franchise offerings are made by Franchise Disclosure Documents only.


Source: The UPS Store

Sonia Chang-Díaz

“I’m tired of waiting”: Latina Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz runs for Mass. Governor 

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, the only woman of color currently serving in the Massachusetts Senate and the first Latina elected to the state’s Senate, announced via Twitter that she will be running for governor in 2022. 

Sonia Chang-Díaz

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz announces bid for Mass. Governor. (Image via Twitter)

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz wastes no time in doing good

Sonia Chang-Díaz, a former public school teacher, was first sworn into office in 2009 and represents the 2nd Suffolk District. From a young age, she was instilled with the values of justice and equity and taught the importance of taking action. 

In her campaign announcement video, published on Twitter, Sonia shares her family background, saying her mother was a social worker and her father was an immigrant from Costa Rica who came to the U.S. with only $50 in his pocket and went on to become NASA’s first Latino astronaut, Franklin Chang-Díaz. 

“If my mom can spend a lifetime helping kids escape poverty, surely Massachusetts can pass a Millionaires Tax to help more children get a better start in life,” she says in the video. “If America can send a poor kid from Costa Rica to space, surely Massachusetts can green our infrastructure and close the racial wealth divide.

Sonia Chang-Díaz’s father, Franklin Chang-Díaz, NASA’s first Latino astronaut in space. (Image via Twitter

Since she was a child, Sonia’s family taught her there is no time to waste in doing good. And she has proven that since her election into office in 2008; she has wasted no time in leading a movement to make bold, transformational change for working families in Massachusetts. 

In her career thus far, Sonia has made a name for herself surrounding the issues of education funding and criminal justice reform. One landmark win in education funding reform was her work in securing $1.5 billion in new aid to K-12 districts across the state. She wrote and championed for this funding, ultimately securing the groundbreaking win. In the area of criminal justice, she has led the charge for criminal justice reform and repealing racist sentencing rules and serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion. Additionally she has helped negotiate an overhaul of policing oversight and accountability laws last year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

“I’m running for Governor because I’m tired of waiting” 

As someone who has never wasted time in doing what needs to be done and fighting for the people’s rights, Sonia is taking the next step to ensure that Massachusetts working families are being cared for and getting what they need to thrive. 

In her Tweet announcing her bid for Massachusetts Governor, she declares: 

“I’ve spent my life listening to powerful people tell me to slow down. To think smaller. To wait,” Sonia says in her campaign video. “Voters didn’t send me to the State Senate to wait….Every day it gets harder for working families to live here. Health care and housing costs get higher, Black and brown kids face yawning opportunity gaps. If we don’t act now, we’ll be having the same conversation about the same problems in another 10 years.”

In her video, she continues by vowing to push back against “Beacon Hill insiders” who have “dragged their feet every step of the way, saying, ‘Think smaller.’” 

But Sonia has never been one to think small or hold back. “Instead, we fought unapologetically for the things working families actually need,” she says. “The trouble is, that kind of urgency in our state government is still the exception rather than the rule. Too many leaders are more interested in keeping power than doing something with it. I’m running to change that.”

You might be interested: Dr. Marlene Orozco demystifies misconceptions about Latinas through data

In addition to education and criminal justice reform, Sonia has been a leading champion for fair taxation, affordable housing, reliable and green public transportation, protections for immigrants, increased assistance for small and local entrepreneurs, capped fare increases for public transportation, advanced environmental justice reforms, and expanded voting rights. 

With her bid for Governor, Sonia Chang-Díaz joins Harvard University professor Danielle Allen–the first Black woman to run for governor in a major political party in the state’s history, and former state Sen. Ben Downing in the race for the Democratic nomination.

NBCU Academy announces recipients of inaugural ‘Original Voices’ Fellowship to support diverse filmmakers

NBCU Academy and NBC News Studios together named seven groundbreaking filmmakers for the first inaugural Original Voices fellowship early last week. From a diverse range of backgrounds, each documentarian will receive $45,000 in grants and a one-year fellowship to support their feature-length nonfiction films in all stages of production, including access to archival research, individually tailored yearlong mentorship, story and edit consultations, distribution strategy discussions, marketing and publicity guidance, production resources, and exposure to NBC News Studios’ executives and journalists.

This year’s inaugural cohort represents a diverse group of filmmakers telling diverse and inclusive stories. In an age where authentic representation and visibility in media for minority groups matters more than ever, this push by NBCU Academy and NBC New Studios to support diverse filmmakers and bring their stories to the mainstream media is incredibly important. Projects from this first cohort include coming-of-age stories that transcend borders, tales of bravery and courage in the face of institutional corruption, accounts of nascent parenthood and belonging, and films that explore Blackness, Latinx identity, immigration, gender, disability, and more.  

“We are so excited to work with seven incredibly gifted, original voices who are committed to highlighting some of the most important social issues of our time,” said Yvette Miley, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for NBCUniversal News Group. “The lived-experiences of these fellows provide a unique foundation for powerful storytelling.”

Meet the Original Voices fellowship recipients and their projects 

Original Voices Fellowship, Hummingbirds

A still from Hummingbirds. (Image Source)

Hummingbirds, Directed by Silvia Castaños, Estefania Contreras, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger, Produced by Leslie Benavides, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger 

In a collaborative coming-of-age film, inseparable best friends Silvia and Beba emerge at night to escape the cruel summer heat of their Texas border town, wandering empty streets in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging. When forces beyond their control threaten their shared dreams and they are faced with an uncertain future, they take a stand and hold onto what they can—the moment and each other.

I Didn’t See You There, Directed by Reid Davenport, Produced by Keith Wilson 

Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. Shot entirely from his literal physical perspective, both from his wheelchair and his two feet, the filmmaker’s gaze and thoughts oscillate between how he is seen, his distant family, and whether his films have fallen into the legacy of the Freak Show.

Original Voices Fellowship

Bloodthicker director, Zac Manuel. (Image Source)

Bloodthicker, Directed by Zac Manuel, Produced by Chris Haney

A coming-of-age documentary about three childhood friends navigating adulthood while living in the shadows of their famous fathers. Filmed over 4 years, the film is an intimate portrait of how three young musicians come to define themselves in the presence and absence of their fathers.

La Flaca, Directed by Jessica Chermayeff and Ana Veselic, Produced by Alba Jaramillo 

A teenager’s flight from Honduras through Central America suddenly snaps into focus when she gives birth on US soil — launching an epic coming-of-age tale of assimilation in America.

Untitled, Directed by Sura Malluoh, Produced by Laura Poitras and Yoni Golijov, Cinematography by Jason D’Souza

Two friends uncover a conflict that divides their already embattled community. Told from all sides, with unprecedented access to courtrooms, anonymous sources and community leaders, this observational film unfolds in real time.

Original Voices Fellowship

A still from Original Voices Fellowship project, MIJA. (Image source)

MIJA, Directed by Isabel Castro, produced by Tabs Breese and Yesenia Tlahuel

Doris Muñoz is an ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to discover aspiring pop stars. Mija dives into the world of a young woman and a community of first-generation musicians that are hustling harder than anyone because “making it” isn’t just a dream—it’s a necessity.

Untitled, Directed by Michael Premo, Produced by Rachel Falcone 

The Original Voices fellows were selected by a distinguished jury of three independent, critically acclaimed documentary filmmakers: Dawn Porter, Nanfu Wang and Cristina Costantini. Jeanelle Augustin is Manager, Film Fellowships and Artist Development overseeing the curation and design of the Original Voices fellowship. 

“These independent filmmakers embody creativity, integrity and inclusivity — core qualities that make for a great storyteller,” said Molly O’Brien, Head of Documentary, NBC News Studios. “NBC News Studios, along with the jury, are proud to support the fellows and help bring their directorial vision to life.” 

You might be interested: How Arylin Martínez Cora is empowering fellow Latinx Filmmakers through nonprofit

NBCU Academy is a new, innovative, multiplatform journalism training and development program launched by NBCUniversal News Group. The initiative provides four-year university and community college students scholarships, education, on-campus training, online programming, funding for accredited journalism programs and access to world-class journalists from NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Currently, NBCU Academy is partnered with 17 academic universities, community colleges and institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and colleges with significant Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous and tribal populations – reaching students from underrepresented groups including those from diverse racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, economic, and geographic backgrounds.

NBC News Studios is a division of NBC News that specializes in documentary storytelling. Working with Studios offers producers and filmmakers access to everything our legacy news organization has to offer: eight decades of TV and radio archive; a global network of journalists; and rich trove of stories. Our team has decades of experience in the TV and documentary worlds and has been honored with multiple Emmy, Peabody and DuPont awards. Our recent collaboration with Focus Features, Dawn Porter’s The Way I See It, was the highest rated non-news program in MSNBC’s 25-year history and the winner of the best documentary feature at the New York Film Critics Online awards.

Fireside chat with Jose Forteza: Diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion in media

Condé Nast Senior Editor for Mexico and Latin America for Vogue, GQ and AD, Jose Forteza, sat one-on-one with Fashion Designers of Latin America’s founder, Albania Rosario, during fireside chat at the third annual Latinas in Business Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit, where they discussed the important topic of diversity and inclusion in mainstream media. Touching on body positivity, ethnic and racial inclusion, and LGBTQ+ representation and visibility, their fireside chat delved into how the media can support Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs and be more inclusive of their stories. 

Jose Forteza, diversity and inclusion in media

Condé Nast Senior Editor for Mexico and Latin America for Vogue, GQ and AD, Jose Forteza speaks on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the media.

Born in Havana of Spanish and Cuban descent, José Forteza has lived in Europe, Dominican Republic and the United States. Currently, Forteza is the Senior Editor of Condé Nast (Vogue, GQ and AD) for Mexico and Latin America, and has been in Condé Nast Publications for more than 20 years.

The fascinating creator has explored every aspect of the arts including dance, music and publishing. He is a TV writer, producer and radio host. He has been nominated for an Emmy Award and is a Producer Grammy Award winner.

An expert in the media world, Forteza shared insights on how mainstream media can support Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs, share their stories, and be more inclusive of the diverse multitude of women in our communities. 

Fireside Chat with Jose Forteza on how mainstream media can support women entrepreneurs 

The 2021 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Summit, held virtually on June 10th, connected women entrepreneurs, business owners, and industry leaders in a powerful, educational experience aimed to give women entrepreneurs the tools they need to grow their businesses and THRIVE! post-pandemic. 

From panels and deep-dive workshops, to our high-powered fireside chat here with Jose Forteza, leaders and experts shared their knowledge and experience to further empower and inspire our community of women entrepreneurs. 

Forteza’s conversation with FDLA’s Albania Rosario touched on the impact of mainstream media and how the media can help to support women entrepreneurs and women-owned brands and businesses to be more inclusive of diversity within the community. 

Albania opened the conversation by asking Jose to speak on the topic of plus size models and the body positivity movement that we have been seeing over the past several years in recent media. 

Albania: The body acceptance among consumers has led several media outlets to feature models with diverse body shapes and sizes. How has the audience reacted to these non-traditional models and how society views the plus size battle in body and health? 

Jose: Well this is something that started, I would say like ten years ago, and now has settled down with very strong, strong, strong acceptance levels from the audience and from the media outlets at the same time….First of all, all the media started showing different size models and ethnic models. At the beginning some outlets were hesitant to do it, but then step by step it’s been increasingly positive. Right now, I would say that, especially for in the case of Vogue Latin America, where I work, it’s nothing out of the usual thing if we include different different size models and different ethnic models, we are just including beautiful women, talented women, and that’s all that matters. 

Missed the conversation? View the full chat below and Subscribe to Latinas In Business on YouTube to catch up on our other 2021 WEES highlights and future videos!   

Inclusivity for LGBTQ+ Latinx in the media 

Jose Forteza and Albania continued their conversation of diversity and inclusion in media by touching on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Latinx narratives and why this representation is important in the media. 

As many know, June is Pride Month, a time when the LGBTQ+ community comes together in celebration. Often marked by parades, festivals, and concerts across the globe, Pride is about community and visibility, both a celebration but also a movement. The historical roots of Pride is often forgotten beneath the parades and parties, but Pride Month is also a month of remembrance and tribute for those who participated in the Stonewall Riots. 

LGBTQ+

Why diversity and inclusion in media matters. (Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash)

The Stonewall Riots began on n New York on June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, which resulted in bar patrons, staff, and neighborhood residents rioting onto Christopher Street outside. Among the many leaders of the riots was a black, trans, bisexual woman, Marsha P. Johnson, leading the movement to continue over six days with protests. The message of these protests was a demand for the establishment of places where LGBT+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest.

Following the Stonewall Riots came the first Pride Parade, organized by Brenda Howard as the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This eventually morphed into what we now know as the New York City Pride March and was the catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world.

Pride month reminds us of the struggles LGBTQ+ people have endured just to be able to be themselves in the open without shame or fear. In 1969, the Stonewall Riots fought for the right to gather, to have a community, to feel safe and seen. Similarly, the push for inclusion and representation of LGBTQ+ identities in the mainstream media is a continuation of this fight to be seen and accepted. 

Albania and Jose continued their conversation by discussing how the mainstream media has evolved over recent years to be more accepting and inclusive of all identities and sexualities. 

Albania: How is the media reflecting the LGBTQ+ visibility issue and how inclusive are the outlets being with trans and lesbian women when approaching the subject of empowering women? 

Jose: Well, honestly that has been a slower process. And I wouldn’t be honest if I said that all the media outlets are embracing the diversity in terms of sexual preferences and lifestyle.  Fortunately, most of them, many them–again in our case Conde Nast, Vogue, GQ–we have reached the point where, again, what matters is what a person is able to give society and what a person has to inspire society. It doesn’t matter if they are a member of the LGBTIAQ+ community or not, for us everything is mainstream. For us what should be important is what these people are showing society and what these people are giving to society….Now it’s more important than ever for the media outlets to reflect them all…and show what they can give and set as an example to succeed in society. 

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Jose goes on to discuss how in the past, media outlets were often focused on being one thing, such as a fashion magazine or lifestyle magazine, but now these outlets are simply “platforms” to show society all that is possible and positive for society. Platforms now are celebrating the differences and bringing diverse stories to greater audiences, from body positivity and racial and ethic inclusion to LGBTQ+ visibility. Diversity and inclusion in these platforms helps show others that their stories are important and valuable and that success can be possible for them too.

latinos nominated to the cabinet

A closer look at the Latinos nominated to Biden’s Cabinet

Many changes are underway as we settle into the new presidency. Among issues of immigration reform and COVID-19 relief, another key topic is that of President Biden’s cabinet nominations. Representation and diversity have been central to President Biden’s choices for top White House positions. During the 2020 election, he promised to nominate “the most diverse Cabinet in history,” stressing that he wanted leaders that look like America. Among the Cabinet nominations are many historic firsts including multiple Latinos nominated to the Cabinet. 

Julie Chávez Rodriguez has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (Photo credit: White house photo office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

“A Cabinet that looks like America”

The Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he or she may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office and comprises some of the most senior positions in the executive branch. Historically until now, these positions have remained mostly male and white. However, if all of Biden’s nominees are confirmed, his Cabinet will contain more women and people of color than any other Cabinet in U.S. history.

“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. 

Data shows that among the Cabinet appointees confirmed in the first 100 days of the last three presidential administrations, almost 72 percent were white, and 73 percent were male. Additionally, women have never made up more than 41 percent of a presidential Cabinet, and Black Americans have never accounted for even a third of the Cabinet.

Among Biden’s first 100-plus staffers, around 60 percent were women, more than 50 percent were people of color and 20 percent were first-generation Americans. 

Latinos Nominated to the Cabinet 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services. (Photo credit: Office of the attorney general of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Xavier Becerra, nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services

Biden has nominated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services, a critical Cabinet position as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and navigates a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Becerra would be the first Latino to serve as HHS secretary. Prior to becoming California attorney general, Becerra served 12 terms in the U.S. House, rising to a top leadership post and helping to steer the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

Miguel Cardona, nominee for secretary of Education

Connecticut Public Schools commissioner and former elementary school teacher Miguel Cardona is President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nomination for secretary of the Department of Education. With his nomination, President Biden delivers on his promise to nominate a teacher for the top education job. Now Connecticut’s top education official, Cardona began as a teacher at his former elementary school. He became the state’s youngest principal in 2003, and eventually the district’s assistant superintendent. 

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Cardona would be tasked with helping the administration get students and teachers back in the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic forced at-home instruction in districts across the country.

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security (Photo credit: official Department of Homeland Security (government) portrait, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas previously served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security and as U.S. Customs and Immigration Service director during the Obama administration. In 1998, Mayorkas became the youngest U.S. attorney in the country. He served as the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California until April 2001. He’s currently an attorney at the global law firm WilmerHale. If confirmed, he will be the first Latino and immigrant to hold the job. 

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration 

Latinos nominated to the Cabinet

Isabel Guzman, nominee for administrator of the Small Business Administration (Photo credit: State of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Latina business leader, Isabel Guzman is the first Latina named to a cabinet-level position. Biden nominated her to head the Small Business Administration as Latino businesses struggle to survive with fewer resources and less funding.

Guzman is currently the director of the Office of Small Business Advocate in the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Prior to her work in California, she worked in the SBA during the Obama administration as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser. Guzman has also started small businesses as an entrepreneur. 

“And as head of the SBA, Isabel will be leading that critical mission to not only rescue small businesses in crisis, but to provide the capital to entrepreneurs across the country so they can innovate, create jobs, and help lead us into recovery,” Biden said when introducing Guzman as his choice.

Latinos nominated in other areas of government

In addition to the Latinos nominated to the Cabinet, President Biden has also continued his mission for diversity in his selections for other positions. Other Latinos who have been appointed to high-level positions include: Julie Chávez Rodriguez who has been appointed as Biden’s director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, and Adrian Saenz has been appointed deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement. 

“It’s not going to be easy. I don’t go into any of this with rose-colored glasses,” said Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of the civil rights leader César Chavez.

Chávez Rodríguez will work with governors and local officials who are worried about security, pandemic surges, the challenges of mass vaccinations and states’ economic hardships. Despite the “overwhelming” challenges ahead, she said there’s “a real hunger” among governors of both parties and mayors to help solve problems.

“While, yes, we have multiple crises we are facing, I think there’s a real moment for a collaborative government that I am really excited and energized by.”

Confirmations for Biden’s cabinet nominations are expected to continue over the coming weeks. As of now two of Biden’s 23 nominees have been confirmed.

Apple appoints first Latina ever to board of directors

Apple announced this month that Monica Lozano, president and CEO of College Futures Foundation, has been appointed as the eighth member to Apple’s board of directors. Lozano, of Mexican origin, is the first Latina to hold such a position at the global tech giant—a major first step toward greater diversity and inclusion in higher-level positions.

She brings with her a broad range of leadership experience, as well as a long track record as a champion for equity, opportunity, and representation.

Photo by Armand Valendez from Pexels

“A true leader and trailblazer” joins Apple’s Board of Directors

Monica Lozano, Apple

Monica Lozano, Latino Corporate Directors Association and Rockefeller Foundation Board of Directors (Photo credit Rockefeller Foundation)

Prior to joining College Futures Foundation, Lozano spent 30 years in media as editor and publisher of La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the US, helping shine a light on issues from infant mortality to the AIDS epidemic. She went on to become chairman and CEO of La Opinión’s parent company, ImpreMedia. Lozano continues to serve on the boards of Target Corporation and Bank of America Corporation.

She has been recognized for her leadership with awards from organizations like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, in her role as CEO of College Futures Foundation, Lozano has been a tireless advocate for expanding access to higher education, partnering with philanthropic organizations, state and local governments, and local communities to improve opportunities for low-income students and students of color. 

A co-founder of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, and a former chair of both the University of California Board of Regents and the board of directors of the Weingart Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, Lozano is also a former board member of The Walt Disney Company. 

“Monica has been a true leader and trailblazer in business, media, and an ever-widening circle of philanthropic efforts to realize a more equitable future — in our schools and in the lives of all people,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Her values and breadth of experience will help Apple continue to grow, to innovate, and to be a force for good in the lives of our teams, customers, and communities.”

As a business leader, public servant, and philanthropist, Lozano has made an indelible impact on companies and communities in the US and around the world,  and is sure to do the same at Apple. 

diversity and inclusion

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

A major step in the campaign for corporate diversity & inclusion

Lozano’s appointment to Apple’s board of directors comes after much work was done in 2020 by Latino Corporate Directors Associations’ (LCDA) and other organizations to push for more diversity in higher level positions at major companies. 

Lozano herself is also a LCDA member and the organization’s goal has been to increase the number of Latinos on corporate boards. According to LCDA’s Latino Board Tracker, currently 77% of Fortune 1000 companies lack a single Latino director on their board.

Other findings of LCDA and corporate data provider Equilar state that in California, where Latinos make up almost 40% of the population, they hold only 2.1% of board positions. 

To improve these indicators, the state of California passed Bill 979 in September 2020. This bill now requires public companies to include executives from underrepresented communities on their boards until December 2021.  

Since September, LCDA—along with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and UnidosUS—also launched the Latino Voices for Boardroom Equity campaign. The goal is for Latinos to hold 20% of board seats—roughly their share of the U.S. population.

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“There is an enormous number of talented Latino candidates who can bring a lot of value [to the companies,” says Esther Aguilar, chief executive officer of the Latino Corporate Directors Association. 

Lozano’s appointment to Apple’s board of directors is a major step in diversity and inclusion, especially for Latinas in technology. Hopefully more corporations will look to the tech giant and follow their example. 

On joining Apple’s board, Lozano said: “I’ve always admired Apple’s commitment to the notion that technology, at its best, should empower all people to improve their lives and build a better world. I look forward to working with Tim, Art, and the other board members to help Apple carry those values forward and build on a rich and productive history.”

 

Jessica K Asencio

The power of community, the legacy of D&I leader Jessica K. Asencio (RIP)

All loses of loved ones sadden us, making us reflect on how ephemeral life is. However, sometimes we are impacted by the loss of someone special, who went above and beyond to make a difference in this world, and for that, she will always be remembered. I am honored and humbled to be part of this beautiful celebration of Jessica K. Asencio’s life. Susana G Baumann, President and CEO, Latinas in Business Inc.

  What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we deeply love becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller

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

Today we take a moment to celebrate the life and legacy of Jessica K. 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 K Asencio’s leadership

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

“She was such an influential leader,” describes fellow colleague and friend, Hedda Bonaparte.

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

“You were our very own fearless leader,” says friend and HISPA founder and CEO, Dr. Ivonne Diaz-Claisse.

Across all testimonials from friends and colleagues, this sentiment reoccurs. Jessica was an extraordinary and passionate leader who left a lasting impact on everyone she met.

Latino market growth

Banking on Latinos for Growth – LNC Executive Board members & speakers: (left to right) Patricia Pacheco Baez (Bank of America Director), Roberto Peralta (Societe Generale Head of Institutional Client Relations, Roberto Ruiz (Univision EVP & event sponsor), Jessica Toonkel (Reuters News Correspondent), Alicia Garcia (LNC Executive Board Co-Chair), Christian Narvaez (Societe Generale Vamos Latino Network), Rosa Ramos-Kwok (Bank of America MD), Carlos Hernandez (J.P. Morgan Head of Global Banking & lead host sponsor), Juliana Gomez (Univision Director), Jessica K. Asencio (LNC Board Founder & LNC Univision Program Steering Committee Co-lead), Lili Gil-Valletta (CulturIntel CEO & Co-founder), Henry Agusti (Bank of America Head of Digital Banking), Don Perez (LNC Executive Board Member & Program Leader), Alex Reyes (Citrin Cooperman Partner), Flavio Cosenza (Chase Bank Executive Director of Marketing), Charles Neugebauer (LNC Univision Program Steering Committee Co-lead)

At JPMorgan Chase, Jessica K Asencio served as the Global Markets Corporate & Investment Bank CAO, where she was responsible for overseeing global talent management, training, and leadership development. Prior to this role, she also served as Vice President for Corporate Marketing & Communications. In all her various roles at JPMorgan Chase throughout her career, she was responsible for developing and implementing firm-wide marketing and communications programs designed to support strategic initiative and key areas of focus. And as with all her work, she always approached every project with a vibrant, optimistic energy.

“I have known Jess since December 2001 when I moved to NYC to work on a high priority project, and Jess represented the Communications Team for JPMC Latin America,” says dear friend and JPMC Colleague, Don Perez. “I was profoundly amazed with her energy, positive attitude, desire to make a difference, commitment and honesty, all testaments of her spiritual strength.”

Jessica K Asencio with friends and LNC Board Members Alberto Flores, President at XP Contractors Inc. and Don Perez, former colleague at JPMorgan Chase (Photo courtesy LNC)

At the time, Jessica was already involved with the JPMorgan Chase Women’s Initiative Network but not yet with Adelante. When Don Perez became Chairman of the Hispanic/ Latino employee group a few months later, Jessica was one of the first people he recruited.

“I needed all the elements of her spiritual side and positive influence with other members to include JPMC Executives,” says Don. Jessica’s tremendous energy was so valuable and necessary to all the work she did that everyone who worked with her recognized it instantly.

Jessica K Asencio

Jessica K Asencio, LNC Executive Board Chair and Founder, and Vice President, Corporate & Investment Bank CAO at JPMorgan Chase speaking at “Banking on Latinos for Growth: Breaking the Code” forum. (Photo courtesy LNC)

“She opened her network to me and many others, which I am grateful for,” says Alicia Garcia, Senior Program Manager, Customer Proposition PMO (Trading & Regulation), and Refinitiv Latino Network Global Co-Chair. “The LNC was started by sharing best practices across our Latino BRG/ERGs and bringing us together as a ‘familia’ under one voice. Her legacy will continue as her values are ingrained across our LNC members and partners.”

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“Jessica K Asencio was a caring, sharing, and an inspiring Latina leader who was committed to Hispanic inclusion at JPMorgan Chase. Through her visionary initiative, she brought together Latino employees resource groups from multiple NYC companies when she co-founded the Latino Network Coalition. The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) partnered with Jessica on many occasions, including her annual toy drive charity event during the holiday season. I was proud to call her my friend. She will be very missed. May she rest in the peaceful arms of the Lord,” Cid Wilson, President & CEO, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) also shared.

Jessica and the power of community

Jessica believed in the power of community. We are stronger together than apart. In the world of business, people are often told they must be separate, individual, and independent to stand out and get ahead. Our Western society at large constantly feeds us this idea of the individual, making us believe that to be strong we must not rely on others or seek help. But that was not Jessica’s message. As a diversity and inclusion leader, she lived by the incredible power of communities and the importance of standing together. And her communities became “familia.”

“She always focused on the good in each person and that was her biggest strength. Her patience and admiration for people was unconditional. She always supported all the different groups and Latino/Hispanic associations with her entire heart and insisted for all of us to do the same,” says Patricia Pacheco de Baez, Director in Corporate Investment Bank at Bank of America, and HOLA NY Executive Advisory Board Emeritus Chair. “I recall her calling me over and over again to support many groups because she used to say ‘If we don’t do it, as Latino/Hispanic professionals, then who will?’ Her theory was that each of us have an obligation to stand up for each other and for our organizations.”

LNC Puerto Rico and Mexico Hurricanes’ Fundraiser at Copacabana 2017 (Photo Courtesy LNC)

“Inclusion is what comes up for me,” says Lucy Sorrentini, Founder & CEO of Impactful Consulting. “Although she and I had never met before, it was as if I knew her my whole life. She taught me what it really means to be in a community and how to lead as a servant leader. It was never about her. It was all about the cause.”

When working on the Adelante Board, Hedda says, “Her enthusiasm and commitment to make us the top Networking Group was so invigorating that she took us all on the same journey.”

Her influence was such that she could bring people together like no other. Everywhere she went, she made lifelong connections and helped others do the same.

“I met Jessica at the Women of ALPFA workshop in 2016,” Oneida Nolly Araujo shares. “Since then, I was impacted by her diligent and effective leadership. She always was willing to help anyone with a smile on her face. After the convention, Jessica became my mentor and more than my mentor, my lovely and dear friend for a lifetime.”

“She was a remarkable and gifted connector, introducing people with similar backgrounds, experiences, interests, upbringings. Always thinking of others first,” says Frank D. Sanchez, who met Jessica in 2011 after moving to NYC from Colorado. “Jessica made everyone feel we were part of something bigger than ourselves, even before knowing what we were a part of.”

“Her desire to elevate the power of our community in numbers combined with her ability to create consensus and bring us together as leaders will forever be remembered,” says Lili Gil Valletta, CEO & Co-Founder of CIEN+.

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Jessica’s legacy on building relationships

As a diversity and inclusion leader, Jessica was naturally a connector. She was passionate about connecting people and building relationships, and she made lifelong connections with everyone she met.

Months ago, Jessica asked her friend Ivonne, “What word comes to mind when you think of me?”

Instantly, Ivonne typed: LOVE. Jessica radiated LOVE toward everyone. LOVE filled her work as she put it into every project.

“You were, you are, and you will forever be LOVE to me and to all of those who had the good fortune of meeting you,” Ivonne writes. “Your LOVE is an example to all of us, your LOVE is something I will never forget.” As the founder of HISPA, Ivonne will ensure Jessica’s legacy of LOVE lives on by giving the “Jessica K. Asencio Scholarship” at the next New York City HISPA Youth Conference.

Latino market growth, Jessica K Asencio

(L to R) Maria de los Angeles Corral, Education for Excellence; Alicia Garcia, Reuters; Charles Neugebauer, Univision; Jessica K Asencio, LNC; Susana G Baumann and Tathiana Carrasco, Latinas in Business Inc. (Photo Latinas in Business Inc.)

The communities and relationships Jessica built will not forget her. Her legacy lives on through them. She will be remembered as a courageous and influential diversity and inclusion leader. She will be remembered for her positive energy, her kind soul, her genuine attitude, and her love and commitment toward building communities and uplifting Latino and Hispanic voices.

“She built a legacy on relationships,” says Jonathan Wunderlich, Dream Project Development Director. “I only hope I can follow in her footsteps and continue to listen, to care, and build from there.”

We can see in her testimonials the impact she had on just a few of the many people who were lucky enough to know her. Her relationships have spanned decades, and even with those she only just met, it often felt they had known each other forever.

“Jessica taught us the power of friendship and showed us how to genuinely live life to its fullest,” says Frank D. Sanchez, from Rhode Island College.

Jessica’s glowing personality

Jessica’s warm smile drew everyone in. She was always genuine, enthusiastic, and ready to help others.

“My initial impression [of Jessica] was someone with a huge smile and equally huge heart,” shares Lucy Sorrentini, who met Jessica 4 years ago at a social gathering for members of the LPC (Latina Philanthropy Circle). “She was warm, down to earth, committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, an ambassador for and on behalf of the Latinx community, a kind soul, and an incredibly intelligent woman who was on a mission to create real change. After we met, her first words were ‘I’ve heard so much about you and the LPC, how can I help?”

This is the type of person Jessica was, one who was always willing and ready to lend a helping hand, and to do so with love and dedication. She took people under her wing, like Hedda Bonaparte, who was one of the many lucky individuals who Jessica mentored throughout her many projects.

DREAM Project

Members of the LNC Board including Alicia Garcia (Thomson Reuters), Patricia Pacheco de Baez (Bank of America), Susana G Baumann, (Latinas in Business Inc.), Junot Diaz (2008) Pulitzer Price for Fiction,  and Jessica K Asencio. (Photo courtesy LNC)

“I don’t believe that Jessica ever gave up the chance to help inspire and bring someone along with her,” says Hedda. “She taught me not to be afraid to show my abilities and what I can bring. I will miss Jessica especially for the warm, inviting smile she always shared and the hugs that followed. Her famous goodbye: ‘un fuerte abrazo’ I send to you, my friend.”

Patricia Pacheco de Baez and Jessica K Asencio, LNC Board Members and best friends (Photo Courtesy LNC)

“With her dedication to philanthropy, her vision, kindness, and authentic approach, Jessica was never a ‘let me get back to you’ person,” says Jonathan Wunderlich. “She was a ‘does a coffee at 4:30 PM Friday work?’ type of person. She was a straight-talker, a truth-teller, so when Jess said she would do something, it got done. She taught me to inject love into what we do, to be real, and avoid getting caught up in the casual side of connections in NYC and the world of giving back. She taught me to fight when it was time, but to always draw opposition in love, care, and attention.”ns

“Life is short and our legacy is created while we are living on earth. Hers is one many of us will remember forever,” says Lucy Sorrentini.

“She was my biggest cheerleader,” shares best friend, Patricia. “My confidant and my big sister who believed in me more than I believed in myself at times. She encouraged me to reach out to the stars and to always push to become the best version of myself. She has left such an emptiness, but her teachings and her love toward us will stay forever in our hearts. We will continue pushing forward the agenda of the advancement on the Latino/Hispanic causes and we will continue her hard work and build on her legacy. May you rest in peace, Jessica, and we will always remember you every step of the way.”

Jessica, the testimonials of your friends and colleagues are the mark of a life, while short, very well-lived. Your work and legacy will continue on in the power of the communities you built and the lives you touched.

This article was a collaboration between Victoria Arena, Editor, and Susana G Baumann, Editor-in-Chief, LatinasinBusiness.us