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EWNJ unveils 2022 New Jersey’s Most Influential Women Leaders

EWNJ honors the 2022 Trailblazing Policy Makers at 40th anniversary Salute to the Policy Makers Gala.

On May 3, 2022 Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ) honored the contributions of New Jersey’s most influential and accomplished women leaders at its signature biennial gala, Salute to the Policy Makers. This year’s gala is special because it is in commemoration of the organization’s 40 year anniversary. 

“This year, our list of high achieving women leaders is especially meaningful, after the pandemic has had such a devastating impact on women in the workplace. In December, women accounted for the entire number of job losses to the US economy at a total of 156,000 jobs lost, while men gained 16,000 jobs,” said Anna María Tejada, President of EWNJ and Partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP. 

EWNJ, Anna María Tejada

Anna María Tejada, President of EWNJ, speaking at the Salute to the Policy Makers Gala. (Photo courtesy of Anna María Tejada)

“Despite their expertise, talents, and the quantifiable benefits that they bring to an organization, women are often in the most vulnerable positions when economic turbulence strikes. It is crucial that the New Jersey business community recognizes the measurable value that women deliver and create more policies to ensure equity and inclusion in the workplace. As consistently documented in EWNJ’s ‘A Seat at the Table’ report, gender and racial diversity not only generates stronger financial performance for organizations but also fewer governance-related issues such as bribery, corruption, shareholder battles, and fraud.”

Salute to the Policy Makers funds EWNJ’s various programs and initiatives aimed at advancing women’s leadership. Most notably, it benefits the organization’s Graduate Merit Award Program, which provides scholarships to women who are non-traditional graduate students with the goal of establishing a pipeline of future women leaders.

As a daughter of Dominican immigrants and first generation attorney, EWNJ President, Anna María Tejada knows first-hand how important programs like these can be. She herself benefitted from various affirmative action programs in her education such as Headstart, EOF, and the Rutgers MSP Program, as well as mentorship from organizations such as the  Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (HBA-NJ) and the Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ).

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

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

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Anna María Tejada with Adrienne D. Gonzalez at the Salute to the Policy Makers Gala. (Photo courtesy of Anna María Tejada)

Anna María says it’s important to elevate those coming up behind you too by paying forward the help you received. 

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

She advises women to seek mentors who look like you, and also mentors who do not look like you but are willing to serve as a resource. “Seek out organizations that could elevate you and put you in touch with people who could be critical for your professional development.” 

You might be interested: “We don’t need to do it alone” says SBA’s Bibi Hidalgo, to aspiring Latina entrepreneurs 

About EWNJ

EWNJ’s mission is to ensure that women have equal opportunities and representation in senior corporate leadership. As the largest provider of scholarships to women who are non-traditional graduate students in New Jersey, EWNJ has provided tuition assistance to nearly 350 women graduate students at New Jersey colleges and universities over the last 30+ years. 

Through our mentor program and their Graduate Merit Award Program, they seek to establish a pipeline for future women leaders to excel and flourish in corporate spaces. 

In support of their mission, they publish a biennial report on the number of women on boards and in the senior governance of publicly traded companies in New Jersey. This report is the only one of its kind in the state. EWNJ also hosts events to build connections and amplify their work. To learn more about EWNJ, visit www.ewnj.org.


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Latinas are underrepresented in law, says attorney Anna María Tejada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating obstacles as a first-generation law student 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengthening the professional pipeline for women of color 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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