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2021 WEES Speaker Maria Piastre: A Latina leader excels in a male-dominated industry 

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre was appointed Metallix Refining Inc. President. Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President.

The 2021 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit motto is THRIVE! with our panels and workshops focusing on key areas of growth to connect and empower women business owners and give them the tools and insights to propel forward and thrive post-COVID19. 

Our women’s panel,THRIVE! Women Turning Adversity into Success”, will feature guest speakers: Maria Piastre, Marvina Robinson, and Jessie Gabriel as they share insights learned on their journey to success while fighting the odds of being a woman and reinventing themselves during the pandemic. Below, Maria shares her story with us of how she rose through the ranks and excelled in a male-dominated industry as a Latina, eventually becoming company CE

 

“The leap of faith never fails”

Maria Piastre was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. She came to the USA in 2000, the start of a new millennium, one that would unveil marriage, a young family, graduation, and professional achievements in business. 

woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre

Maria Piastre, President of Metallix Refining Inc.

As her career path was still uncharted, Maria’s tenacity for success and recognition would prove to be her armor against the many inequalities she would encounter. Later these inequalities would form the foundation for future campaigns.

Maria graduated from Kean University in 2004 with a degree in Economics thanks to the unconditional support of her family.  She then entered the world of business and commerce. Over the next two years, the motivated Latina immigrant excelled in business management, marketing strategy, aesthetic value, with an aptitude for communication at all levels. 

With the end of 2005 insight, Maria reflected on both her achievements and looked towards new challenges that would be more aligned with her goals and those of the organization she would represent. This new chapter of discovery would lead Maria to Metallix and a career in the male-dominated industry of precious metals where her future would soon unfold and be a platform for success.

“Facing new challenges can often be very daunting and come with their own set of risks but taken intelligently, they will open doors to countless possibilities where the rewards can be high,” Maria asserts. 

And she continues, “The leap of faith never fails because you learn something valuable about your decision and the events in your life, bringing growth and confidence.  Survival makes you strong and it is an understanding of failure that makes you realize this is not the end of the line, but just the beginning of a new chapter.” 

Achieving success as a woman in a male-dominated industry

In 2006 Metallix Refining Inc., a precious metals recycling company in New Jersey, announced they were recruiting for an inside sales position to cover Latin America. 

Maria, a native Spanish speaker, fluent in English with a background in sales and marketing, applied for the opening and received an interview offer from Eric Leiner, owner and then President.

For any profession, being prepared for whatever situation you face is crucial; it is a professional obligation to your colleagues and suppliers to answer their questions fully and present them with the best, most relevant, and actionable recommendation.

Maria applied the same professional approach to the Metallix interview. Reading precious metals and refining trade magazines, researching product supply to the industry from gold-plated connectors to solar industry production, all of which made for credibility and confidence during the interview process and responses.

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria during her tour of Asia meeting with our Technical Director Claudio Ferrini and the General Manager of Metallix Refining Asia Mr. SB Sangbae Kim. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

There is always a voice of doubt and moments of anxiousness when you want something which is almost in touching distance, and for Maria, this was no exception. 

However, instead of a second interview, she received a job offer. The strategy had worked, and Eric Leiner was thrilled when Maria accepted.

The best place to work is the place you can be at your best and this was true for Maria.  Maria started to learn the business and soon fell in love with her job and became fascinated by the industry. 

With increasing industry knowledge and eagerness to grow within the company, Maria assumed additional responsibility bringing in new business, developing good relationships with industry partners and leading the way for improvements within Metallix.

In 2007, following the birth of her second son, Maria took a short career break from Metallix.  In a competitive and male-dominated industry time away can often result in missing significant opportunities.  “The progressive mindset of Metallix and their appreciation for my professional achievements and value to the company, secured my time away from the industry – a luxury many working mothers do not enjoy. I will always be grateful for such important consideration to my family,” Maria explained.   

Upon her return, she continued to achieve recognition within Metallix, taking on significant responsibilities assigned by Lerner.  

“The only limits are those you set yourself”

In 2017, after only 12 years working in this male-dominated industry, Maria Piastre  was appointed company President.  Ambition had always been a driving force fueled by a passion for the industry, but never did she imagine to be made President. This was both a pleasant shock and honor. 

woman in a male-dominated industry

Maria interacts with every member of the Metallix Team, making an effort to engage with every employee on her many frequent visits to the Refinery. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

The sense of humility that Maria brings to the position transcends not just gender but embraces a new generation of values, of learning and reward based on individual merit, with the only limits being those you set yourself.

“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,” Maria advises Latinas in Business readers. This ethos is ingrained in Maria’s leadership.

One of the most important responsibilities as President was to establish a vision, a long-term mission with short-term objectives.  These will ultimately determine the expectations for the company’s culture and core values that will lead Metallix at multiple levels ensuring alignment throughout. Equally, recruiting talent and nurturing Executive growth for succession planning is key to building sustainability and industry expertise.  

Now guardian of a prestigious and respected precious metals recycling company, with locations in New Jersey, Greenville, and Maxton, North Carolina, the pattern of reinvestment and growth is set to continue. 

In 2019 the company embarked on a significant expansion program establishing Metallix Refining Asia Ltd in South Korean and Metallix Refining Europe Ltd based in the UK. 

These two new facilities secured the recruitment of the industry’s most experienced and respected personnel, opening up new and untapped revenue sources to add to the diverse industries already served by Metallix.

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Evolving with the times

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Maria has witnessed and experienced many changes over the last 12 years and has been influential to many changes herself. Through Maria’s values, Metallix is a multicultural employer with promotions based on ability, not gender, and an environment where there is no place for discrimination or bullying. 

As 2020 has seen the impact of COVID-19 on businesses globally, Metallix has been no exception. 

Maria at the Precious Metals Refining meeting the Metallix Trucks arriving back to the Refinery (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

“Business models once tried and tested no longer applied, and the way to survive and grow in this new economic market would be through technology, Maria said.”Metallix has always made a significant investment in equipment and applied sciences resulting in the Metallix Precious Metals Refinery becoming a world-class facility. We now needed to apply the same approach to sales and communication,” Maria explained. 

In addition to travel and face-to-face meetings no longer possible, video conferencing and social media platforms have been tools in which to maintain stability in the supply chain.  Metallix has an experienced team of buyers providing materials management guidance and support, managing social risks to protect our employees, suppliers, and the community. 

Under Maria’s leadership, Metallix Refining Inc. strives to provide exceptional customer service with world-class facilities that continue to achieve excellence for our customers.

2021 WEES

2021 WEES: Announcing THRIVE! Women’s Panel Speakers 

Latinas in Business is pleased to announce three incredible female business leaders as speakers for the 2021 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit. The WEES hybrid event is set to take place on Thursday, June 10 from 1:30 PM – 6:30 PM EDT.

Be sure to Register Now for this must-attend event! 

2021 WEES Women's Panel

With THRIVE! as our motto this year, the 2021 Women Entrepreneur Summit (#2021 WEES) will center on key areas of growth to connect and empower women business owners with tools and insights that will propel them forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The event will feature inspiring Keynote speakers, fun networking sessions, and various panels with industry leaders and entrepreneurs. 

2021 WEES THRIVE! Women’s Panel speakers 

Our THRIVE! Women Turning Adversity into Success panel will feature three inspiring women entrepreneurs who will share their journeys to success while fighting the odds of being a woman and reinventing themselves during the pandemic.  

We are so pleased to announce and welcome our three guest speakers: Marvina Robinson, Maria Piastre, and Jessie Gabriel. 

Marvina Robinson, owner and founder of Stuyvesant Champagne. (Photo courtesy Marvina Robinson)

Marvina Robinson is the owner and founder of Stuyvesant Champagne.

Her love affair with champagne began quite humbly as a college student when she and her friends would often pool their limited funds to purchase a bottle of Moet & Chandon, White Star.

Years later, Marvina desired to create her own brand of champagne to serve as the private house label for her upcoming champagne bar. In order to achieve that goal, she worked with a vineyard in France to create Stuyvesant Champagne.

As one of the few African-American women owning a Champagne brand, Marvina hopes to bring a taste of home, spice and culture to the Champagne community. Her love for her hometown, Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn, NY), inspired the name of her brand, Stuyvesant Champagne.

Maria Piastre, CEO of Metallix Refining. (Photo courtesy Maria Piastre)

Maria Piastre is the CEO of  Metallix Refining.

As a business development professional with a degree in economics from Kean University NJ, Maria joined the Metallix team in 2005, working alongside department heads, touching upon strategic planning, marketing and sales.

Closely working with engineers and some of the most respected and accomplished minds in the precious metals industry, soon developed supplier and partner relationships based on sound business and proven results.

In 2017 Maria was promoted to company CEO after demonstrating an ability to perform critical duties throughout the organization, achieving the trust and respect of employees and colleagues. As CEO of Metallix Refining, Maria Piastre is an acknowledged and accomplished leading voice within the precious metals industry and financial sector.

Jessie Gabriel, founder of All Places, business and legal strategy firm. (Photo courtesy Jessie Gabriel)

 

Jessie Gabriel is the founder of All Places, a business and legal strategy firm that supports women asset managers and entrepreneurs.

Jessie is a champion for women and a prominent voice on the role of capital ownership and control in achieving gender equity. Raised by a single working mother in Southern California, Jessie’s success came with a deep appreciation of how gender norms and unequal access to capital contribute to a systemic lack of opportunities for women-identifying entrepreneurs and executives. Her personal vision and passionate advocacy are fueled by the desire to create true change.

All-Places is the culmination of her expertise and ethos, space for women to formulate businesses of all kinds, receive trusted legal and strategic guidance, and ultimately cultivate long-term financial success. Jessie is also the General Counsel of the New America Alliance, an organization that advocates for the Latinx asset management community, and Chair of the Board of New Destiny Housing, which builds permanent, beautiful, affordable housing for families that have survived domestic violence.

Hear their inspiring stories and learn from their experiences at the 2021 Women Entrepreneur Empowerment Summit, Thursday, June 10th. Register Now! 

2021 WEES

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!