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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!