Angela Arboleda

Angela Arboleda embracing Latinos with activism, advocacy and opportunity

No matter the role or position VP of Government & Community Affairs at Herbalife and CHLI Board Member Angela Arboleda has held throughout her intense professional career, undoubtedly her dedication to the Latino community has been her first priority.

Angela Arboleda

Angela Arboleda, Vice President Government and Community Affairs, Herbalife at the 2016 The Latino Coalition Small Business Summit

From being an activist in Latino organizations to becoming their advocate in government, and finally lobbying for a company that promotes a healthy lifestyle, Angela has always worked around her passion for defending the interests and well-being of Latinos.

The Arboleda family

Angela Arboleda American Latinas

Angela Arboleda

Angela Arboleda is no stranger to taking a stand for her beliefs. She belonged to a family that was involved in and familiar with humanitarian efforts –her father was an UNICEF officer who moved the family from Colombia to Mexico when Angela was 10 years old.

They lived in Mexico  for nine years to then relocate to Sierra Leone. She finally arrived in 1993 to the United States to be enrolled in a small junior high school in Connecticut.

“Although I am a Colombian by blood and birth , I feel a deep emotional connection with Mexico due to my upbringing there during my teen years,” Angela told in an exclusive interview.

She then moved to Washington DC, a town she never left, graduating from the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University in 1998.

“As an international student, I believed I was going to finish my studies and return home to apply there my acquired knowledge, but I made the US my home –I guess I was tired of being a ‘transported child’,” she shared.

During the summers, Angela found internship jobs at labor unions and later after graduating got her first jobs at the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority Foundation where she was lead organizer for political and corporate campaigns, ballot initiatives and political rallies.

“I was raised by socially inclined parents who always helped the less fortunate,” she said. “I soon discovered I had a natural talent for organizing and working with people. However, I also noted that although these unions and activist organizations where trying to represent minorities, their higher-level positions continued to be mostly held by White men. Even in the feminist organizations, White women were still at the top. I kept asking myself, ‘Where are the Latinos?’”

Angela Arboleda the years of activism


Angela proudly identifies, feels and lives as a Latina. “I am Latina and matters of equality are very important to me,” she stated.

In pursue of her activism, she joined the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) where she rose to be Director of the Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Policy. At the time, Raul Yzaguirre was the President of the civil rights organization.

“During that time, I had the opportunity to see closely the unique challenges Latinos faced in the criminal justice system. They might find many of the same burdens Whites and Blacks do when they enter the system. However, immigration status, language barriers and difficulties in understanding how to navigate the system are unique obstacles Latinos encounter, with little help from their families and their communities,” Angela explained.

Working in several publications, in 2004 Angela co-authored Lost Opportunities: the Reality of Latinos in the U.S. Criminal Justice System, the first book to focus on Latinos in the justice system.

Arboleda is grateful for her mentors’ guidance in researching the topic but also very proud that her early vision took a stand about a matter that continues to be one of the most important issues of our times. “I’m very proud that my work is still a huge contribution even after 16 years of being published,” she asserted.

Angela Arboleda and her advocacy years in Congress

While working at NCLR, this Latina leader and activist recognized the importance of working inside the system to help push a cause. Her actions did not go unnoticed. Through one of her mentors, she was introduced to the office of then Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).

Senator Harry Reid Angela Arboleda

“They were looking for someone with experience and connections but also immersed in the Latino community. They realized I was not afraid of speaking up and I, on the other hand, realized, ‘I could totally work for this Senator!’,” Angela recalls.

But most importantly, the whole situation just worked out as a miracle. “I had received my green card the day before. I would have never had the opportunity to work for government without my residency,” she recalls.

As Senior Policy Advisor for Latino and Asian-American Affairs for the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Arboleda advocated around issues of immigration including the Senate approval of the Dream Act and economic policy. She also served as the Senate liaison to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“I remember walking around the Capitol and thinking, ‘This is happening to me!’ I was just happy to be a small part of history,” she said.

Staying connected with the same organizations she used to work with on the ground –LULAC, NAA, NCLR and others–, she helped raise the political profile of Latinos during her seven years in the Senate.

The Herbalife call

Angela Arboleda

CHLI Board Member Angela Arboleda hosts the Herbalife Fellows Leadership Session

When a company’s reputation is on the line, bringing in the best and the brightest to diffuse the situation is a smart move. However, when the best and the brightest is a recognized and outstanding member of the community in question, then it is a brilliant strategy.

“In 2014, Herbalife was undergoing some challenging times and they were looking for someone with my background, connections and insertion in the Latino community. When I was offered the vice presidency of Government & Community Affairs at Herbalife, I had all sorts of negative reactions from friends and colleagues,” Angela recalls.

She looked at the company, what it stood for and the alleged claims against it. “I loved the concept of an amazing company that helped people to stay fit and healthy while offering those who wanted it, the opportunity to earn extra income,” she summed up.

As a mom of two and a woman on the constant go, Angela found in Herbalife products a healthy solution for her rush hours and frequent lack of time to cook balanced meals.

“I try to instill in my children the love for our culture, our food and our customs; but when we don’t have the time to bake ‘patacones’ or puree some fresh fruit, I’m fortunate to always have the healthy shakes and protein bars at my disposal. I also love the fact that the company makes an effort to offer local flavors in different countries, respecting local customs and beliefs,” she shared.

Angela Arboleda a member of the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus

naaselfiethon-angela-arboleda-raul-yzaguirreDuring her time working with Raul Yzaguirre at NCLR, Angela was exposed to the New America Alliance (NAA). “I had met Pilar  [Avila] then but when I was recruited by Herbalife, we were immediately connected. I began representing Herbalife at the NAA Wall Street Summit,” she said.

“Being a member of the American Latina Leadership Caucus is very important to me. It offers a support system that helps the young and up and coming Latina leaders learn from more seasoned and often glass ceiling breaking Latinas,” Angela explained.

The Caucus is an equalizer of opportunities to access circles of influence, C-suites and board openings, according to Arboleda.

“We need to see more Latinas and Latinos in higher positions. In my experience, people tend to recommend or provide opportunities to people belong to their same circles or who have common values. The Caucus is an excellent place to nurture and groom Latinas to gain access to those circles of influence and acquire the knowledge and experience their talent deserves,” she concluded.




NAA American Latinas economic, political and leadership force

An outstanding lineup of American Latinas representing the economic, political and leadership force of the female Latino community will meet at the New America Alliance 16th Wall Street Summit once again on October 5th in New York City.



The initiative was launched for the first time in 2014. The New America Alliance (NAA) brought to the forefront an exclusive panel of powerful American Latinas in recognition of the advances of Hispanic women in business and the workplace, and as a result, the American Latina Leadership Caucus was born.

The NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus aggregates 100 influential Latinas across sectors – entrepreneurship, corporate, appointed/elected office, nonprofit and academia, to enhance the pipeline and accelerate the placement of Latina leadership talent.

  • The Caucus identifies career and board opportunities and Latinas to put forth as candidates.
  • Caucus gatherings bring together seasoned and rising Latina leaders as part of an ongoing process to introduce new resources and connections; transfer lessons learned; and highlight pathways to reach the next level of success and influence.
  • Our effort includes the proliferation of business being done among members of the Caucus. We are, after all, invested in Latina success.

This year, the organization made emphasis in structuring the initiative at a national level, naming co-chairs for every region in the country.

NAA American Latinas National Co-chairs

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar NAA Institute Board Member;  Managing Partner, Victoriana, LLC

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar

Drawing upon a successful thirty-year trajectory in commercial banking, marketing communications, international trade and community service, Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar is now an investor, grantor and pro-bono consultant to non-profits and minority-owned small businesses in a variety of industries including publishing, airport retailing, financial planning and professional services.  She is a motivational speaker and coach to Latinos through her weekly radio show on Univision Radio/South Florida, El Arte del Triunfo/The Art of Success and through a live seminar series based on the program.

Read more: NAA’s Fernandez-Haar on Latinas shaping history

 Carmen Ortiz-McGhee NAA Institute Chair of the Board; Senior Vice President & Resident Sales Director, Aon Risk Solutions, Capital Region

Carmen Ortiz-McGhee

Carmen Ortiz-McGhee

NAA Inc and NAA Institute Board Member and Co-Chair American Latinas Caucus; Co-Chair, Marketing & Communications Committee Carmen Ortiz-McGhee is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales for Aon Risk Solutions (ARS) – The Capital. In this role, she is responsible for driving growth and market penetration for ARS throughout Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland. Before joining ARS, Carmen served as Executive Vice President of Sales for Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions.

Read more: Ortiz-McGhee facing challenges in minority education


Jackeline Cacho_L01_profile

Jackeline Cacho

Jackeline Cacho NAA Board Member, Founder, Finding Productions 

Cacho founded Finding Productions, a media and macerating services agency with an expertise in commercials, infomercials, corporate videos, music videos, events, TV direction and productions, media buying and advertising campaigns. Through Finding Productions and with the support of the company’s president Thene Mucino, Cacho developed “Triunfadores Latinos con Jackeline Cacho”, an independent program transmitted on Mundo Fox 22 and Super 22.2 since April 2012. Over the years Cacho has served as a Latina leader that encourages the Latino community across the nation to be leaders in their own right.

Read more: Jackie Cacho Vme TV staging Latinas for leadership

 Nely Galán Media Entrepreneur, The Adelante Movement

Nely Galan Self-Made

Nely Galan

The Emmy Award-winning producer and advocate for gender parity, Cuban born Nely Galán started at the very bottom when her parents were forced to leave their country of origin and migrate to the United States. She worked her way up to become the first female president of entertainment of a U.S. Hispanic television network (Telemundo). Although a big achievement in her life, she did not feel satisfied until she became successful in her own terms by building a real estate empire and a global multicultural media company that has created over 700 television shows and helped launch 10 channels around the world. Always looking for purpose in her life, she then started The Adelante Movement (“Move it forward!” in English), a non-profit organization sponsored by The Coca-Cola Co., which kicked off in 2012.

Read more: Nely Galán SELF-MADE an inspiring story of empowerment and self-reliance

Washington, DC

Mary Ann Gomez Orta Executive Director, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) 

Mary Ann Gomez Orta

Mary Ann Gomez Orta

Mary Ann Gomez joined the Congressional Hispanic Institute (CHLI) as its Executive Director in 2011. Prior to joining CHLI, she was the Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications. She is former corporate marketing manager with Coors Brewing Company and McDonald’s Corporation. She managed multi-million advertising and marketing campaigns, collaborated with advertising and public relations firms as well as multi-lingual broadcast, print and outdoor media to executive local, regional and national promotions.


Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow President and CEO, The Oliver Group, Inc.

Elizabeth Oliver Farrow NAA American Latinas

Elizabeth Oliver Farrow

Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow is President and CEO of The Oliver Group, Inc. (OGI), a Washington, DC-based public relations and government policy consulting firm where she works with senior executives on outreach strategies. She formerly operated another communications firm for 29 years after having served previously as an entertainment industry publicist and as Director of Public Relations for Playboy Clubs International. She brings 40 years of public relations and outreach experience for corporate, trade and federal clients. Ms. Oliver-Farrow, a Puerto Rican born in the South Bronx, has a commitment to empowering, educating and advocating for women, youth, and the Hispanic business community.


Brenda Alfaro Vice President – Business Development Group, LM Capital Group, LLC 


Brenda Alfaro

Brenda Alfaro joined LM Capital Group in January 2014. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Alfaro worked as Vice President-Marketing at Hansberger Global Investors responsible for institutional business development. Ms. Alfaro also worked as Institutional Sales/Client Service Manager at Paradigm Asset Management. She received a Master of Social Science Administration from Case Western Reserve University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida International University.


Olga Camargo Managing Partner, Toroso Investments

Olga Camargo NAA American Latinas

Olga Camargo

Olga Camargo, AIF® is Managing Partner at TOROSO Investments, LLC, a registered investment advisor firm. Olga provides investment advisory and retirement plan advisory services to clients that include: high net worth individuals, business owners, public and private corporations, public sector entities, and not-for-profit entities and foundations. Olga holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) professional designation from Fiduciary 360, and is able to effectively implement a prudent investment process for all of her clients.

New York

Danielle Beyer Director of Strategic Partnerships, 55 Capital Partners

Daniel N Beyer NAA American Latinas

Danielle N Beyer

Danielle N Beyer is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at 55 Capital Partners. Prior, Danielle was a Managing Director and Head of Investor Relations at Mariner Investment Group, LLC. Prior to joining Mariner in 2008, Danielle focused on commercial mortgage backed securities in the Structured Products group for NatCity Investment (now PNC). Previously, she was with National City’s Investment Banking group where she worked on Special Situations and Industrials M&A engagements. She earned a M.B.A. from the Simon Graduate Scholl of Business and is a cum laude graduate of the University of Rochester.

Dallas, TX

Veronica Torres Director of Business Development, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) 

Veronica Torres NAA American Latinas

Veronica Torres

Veronica Torres currently works for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau as the Director of Business Development. Veronica currently serves as the President of the Hispanic 100 board of Directors and is a member of the Young Latino Executives, the Mayor’s Star Council Advisory Board, the Hispanic Women’s Network of North Texas, the Greater Dallas planning Council, LATISM (Latinos in Social Media- Dallas Chapter), and is Co Chair of the Girls Inc. Champion for Girls Program.

San Antonio, TX

The Honorable Rebecca Viagran  City Council, District 3, City of San Antonio

Rebecca Viagran NAA American Latinas

H. Rebecca Viagran

Rebecca J. Viagran was elected to City Council District 3 in May 2013 and re-elected to the office in 2015. Aside from being directly involved with city government, Councilwoman Viagran also has experience working with community organizations and volunteering for important causes. She served the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as Vice President of External Affairs and worked as the Director of Government and Community Relations for Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT).


Patricia Diaz Dennis Board of Directors at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, US Steel & Entravision Board of Directors

Patricia Diaz Dennis NAA American Latinas

Patricia Diaz Dennis

Patricia Diaz Dennis is also a trustee of the NHP Foundation, a member of the Advisory Boards for LBJ Family Wealth Advisors and Western Governors University Texas, and is Chair of The Global Fund’s Sanctions Panel. She was a SVP & Assistant General Counsel overseeing various legal matters for the company originally known as SBC Communications (which became AT&T) from 1995 to 2008, when she retired. Ms. Diaz Dennis received three Presidential Appointments. From 1983 to 1986, President Ronald Reagan named her a member of the National Labor Relations Board. He then appointed her a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission until 1989. President George H.W. Bush appointed her Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in 1992.

American Latinas Economic, Political and Leadership Force Session #NAALatinaCaucus

Moderator: Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, NAA Institute Chair & American Latina Leadership Caucus Chair; SVP & Resident Sales Director, Aon Risk Solutions, Capital Region

American Latinas Panelists:

Brenda Alfaro, Vice President Business Development, LM Capital Group; #NAALatinaCaucus Co-Chair, Miami

Angela Arboleda, VP Government and Community Affairs Herbalife

Angela Arboleda American Latinas

Angela Arboleda

Angela Maria Arboleda works on a variety of policy issues for the company and serves as a federal government relations lobbyist conducting outreach on Capitol Hill and the Administration. Angela joins Herbalife after a 15-year career in public service. Most recently, she served as Senior Policy Advisor for Latino and Asian-American Affairs for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). In that capacity she oversaw policy and political strategy impacting the Latino and Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the U.S. Prior to her time on Capitol Hill, Angela worked at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) – the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. – as Director of Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Policy. At NCLR, she was a spokesperson to both mainstream and Spanish-language media.

Olga Camargo, Managing Partner, Toroso Investments; #NAALatinaCaucus Co-Chair, Chicago

Patricia Díaz-Dennis, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, US Steel & Entravision Board of Directors; #NAALatinaCaucus Co-Chair, San Antonio

Ivelisse Estrada, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Community Relations, Univision

Ivelisse Estrada

Ivelisse R Estrada

Ivelisse R. Estrada is senior vice president of Corporate and Community Relations for Univision Communications Inc (UCI), the leading media company serving Hispanic America. In this role she is responsible for the overall development and coordination of community relations strategies for the Company including the Univision Network, UniMás Network, Univision Cable Networks, as well as Univision Local Media, including TV, radio and digital. She coordinates all philanthropic contributions and serves as a liaison between UCI and community organizations. Estrada also plans, directs and supervises the execution of the Company’s community empowerment platform Univision Contigo which includes Education, Health, Prosperity and Civic Participation.

 Read more: Ivelisse Estrada at Univision building community from a position of leadership

Daisy Expósito-Ulla, Chairman & CEO, d’exposito & partners; NAA Latina Caucus Member

Daisy Exposito American Latina

Daisy Exposito

Daisy Expósito-Ulla is a pioneer and a recognized authority in Multicultural Marketing and brand communications. She is Chairman/CEO of d exposito & Partners. In 2015, the agency was chosen AEF Agency of the Year by the Advertising Educational Foundation, which also recognized Daisy “for her contributions to American advertising.” Prior to founding the agency, she was Chairman/CEO of Young & Rubicam/WPP’s The Bravo Group, a company she helped launch and subsequently build during her twenty-four-year tenure, becoming the largest U.S. Hispanic agency of all time.

Mary Ann Gómez Orta, President & CEO, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute; #NAALatinaCaucus Co-Chair, Washington DC

“These women have pioneered new business models, led organizations that have set records and made history,” said Carmen McGhee, NAA Institute Chair & American Latina Leadership Caucus Chair. “These American Latina leaders have all done very well in their careers and are committed to doing good in their communities as they build and grow their legacies, open doors and make business connections for the generations of leaders that are coming after them.”

Join Wall Street Summit participants as they learn at the heels of these American Latinas business influencers.

As a supporter, you can register HERE.



Solange Brooks, CalSTRS

CalSTRS Portfolio Manager Solange Brooks’ secret weapon for success

Tom Soto, Managing Partner, Craton Equity Partners and Solange Brooks, Portfolio Manager, CalSTRS at the New America Alliance 12th Wall Street Summit at the Waldorf Astoria. New York, NY 2012

Tom Soto, Managing Partner, Craton Equity Partners and Solange Brooks, Portfolio Manager, CalSTRS at the New America Alliance 12th Wall Street Summit at the Waldorf Astoria. New York, NY.

Solange Fernandez Brooks joined the Investments Executive Unit of the second largest U.S. pension fund in the nation in 2004, after a professional career that spanned from the military to the private sector and now continues in public service.

“Yes, I’m Latina even if my name is Solange. I was born in Arizona from a Spanish/French mother and a Mexican/Arab father. I grew up immersed in Mexican culture and I also lived in Spain for five years so I have experienced a full range of cultural nuances that made me who I am,” Solange shared with LIBizus.

With responsibilities across all asset classes of the $164 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), Solange Brooks is part of a team of five directors managing the following divisions: Private Equity, Global Equities, Corporate Governance, Fixed Income, Risk & Research, Operations and Real Estate.

Talking to this accomplished Latina, however, was a relaxed and colorful conversation with anecdotes and memories. My interest focused on her varied experience in different activity sectors and a successful career that dared into male dominated fields.

“When I joined the military, I realized that I preferred to give orders than to receive then,” she giggled. I went into Intelligence, a totally male dominant field, and I had to put my nose to the ground and do the work. They wondered who this woman from the West was because I was tough. I have to say that other military women were very supportive and helped me through the challenges,” she remembered.

She then worked in the private financial sector as Assistant Manager for Aetna Financial Services where she was responsible for commercial and consumer lending before going into public service.

An impressive career includes having served on the Corrections Independent Review Panel headed by former California Governor George Deukmejian, which released recommendations to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for improvement of California’s correctional system and a post as Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Relations.

She also spent nine years in the correctional field, where she carried out various leadership positions – Chief Deputy Inspector General; Assistant Agency Secretary, Policy and Planning and Executive Director for the California Commission on Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training . Solange continues her efforts with Minorities in Law Enforcement (MILE), as an advocate for children of color and children at risk in front of state policy makers.

“None of these positions came easily but the truth is I get bored easily once I have achieved the challenge at hand, and I’m always looking for the next thing I need to learn,” she shared. “I believe you find the support you need if you look in the right places.”

Nevertheless, Solange believes her secret weapon for success was always her family and specially her mother. “I was raised in a wonderful family; we were groomed, prepared and that gave us a tremendous edge. I was always told that I could do and be anything I wanted to,” she said. “My mother still is my mentor, a fantastic enlightened woman who did not finish college. I’m lucky I can pick up the phone and talk to her still today,” she proudly said.

Solange Brooks, CalSTRS

Solange Brooks

Despite that her mom raised her and her siblings as a single parent –which Solange recalls was very challenging–, she advised her daughter wisely when it was the young woman’s turn to form her own family. “I was aware of the ‘old traditions’ in Mexican culture in which men expect to be served but she said ‘un hombre verdadero te va a ayudar en todo’ (a true man will help you with everything).”

In truth, Solange has had a very stable marriage with her husband of 30 years, who has shared his 50 percent of responsibility in raising a wonderful son and supporting Solange in her career choices.

Her love for Spanish language, poetry and literature comes from her father, who lived in Mexico and was in the newspaper industry. “I love to read and recite poems in Spanish and I have a deep fascination for Spanish culture,” she said.

Solange feels her most demanding positions have been in the public sector, where she needed to be on the job 24/7 or do a lot with less, being creative with little resources and using her skills to the max.

“Progress over the years comes from one’s own preparation. Women in general and Latinas in particular have increased their preparation, improved their education and are achieving in many areas in the workplace. In business, Latinas cannot allow any roadblocks to stop them from fulfilling their goals. You have to go over, under or around them, but you need to be strong, do the work and get that experience you need to be successful,” she concluded.

Solange is a member of the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus, a new initiative of the New America Alliance, an organization that showcases the contribution of American Latinos to the U.S economy and promotes greater inclusion across sectors.

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum Latina leadership in social philanthropy

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum social philanthropy

Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, President and CEO, Edwin Gould Foundation

A child gets a polio vaccine in Nigeria, a homeless person in Chicago finds shelter and a hot meal or a teenage girl in Brazil is the first to finish high school in her family. These “little miracles” happen every day without big headlines thanks to the world of social philanthropy, a complex universe that requires the action of thousands of organizations working for the most inconceivable causes around the world.

The Edwin Gould Foundation (EGF) is one of 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in existence in the USA. And they happen to have a Latina at their helm, another little miracle that does not happen frequently.

“Women, and specially Latinas are not well represented in the philanthropic sector,” said Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, the EGF President and Chief Executive Officer. “It is traumatic the low level of Latinas in high level positions in the nonprofit sector,” she shared with

Under Cynthia’s leadership, EGF –an organization that helps motivated low-income students get to and through college– has also launched an accelerator for nonprofits focused on that same mission. The accelerator is a unique combination that includes incubation services, grant making and advocacy focused on improving educational outcomes for low-income youth.

“My own parents never made it to college so mentorship for me was –and continues to be– a personal challenge,” she shared. Her father was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, and her mother in Coamo, Puerto Rico. They both moved to the United States and met in Manhattan, soon starting a growing family that lived in the Tri-State area. Her parents never attended college but they were very committed to putting their three daughters through higher education.

Mentorship in social philanthropy

As a leader in the foundation, she made her personal mission to mentor as many young women involved in advocacy in the New York region as she could. “As women, we have to raise awareness that giving everything we have to our families and our work, little is left for us,” she affirmed.

“I was delighted to become part of the New America Alliance American Latina Caucus because connections and mentoring are very important for Latinas. It is uplifting to be part of this group that is committed to define and support the power of American Latina leaders,” she said.

Talking one-on-one with mentors and finding a group of diverse people that can advise you on different aspects of your life and career is her suggestion to her mentees. “We need guidance and we need to build relationships that allow us to talk about everything that is of our concern, for instance, money, family or career.”

Unfortunately, she believes women still have it very hard in the work environment when it comes to career and family. Women are still seen as the parent responsible for childcare and caregiving, and many career opportunities are not offered to women for that reason.

“The 50/50 balance between men and women related to caring for their children is an illusion,” she said. “Your partner has to understand that it might come the time when the balance is 80/20 and they have to be ready to take the challenge,” she affirmed.

Cynthia Rivera Edwin Gould Foundation social philanthropy

The Edwin Gould Foundation caters to disadvantaged students from low-income families.

Male and female leadership in social philanthropy

Cynthia has built strong relationship with male mentors throughout her career as well because men have a different perspective on issues, she said. “Instead of being confrontational, we need to navigate through and nurture our relationship with men. Sometimes women we get on the ‘treadmill’ and just keep going; men can help us stop and see more clearly the complexity of a situation or given circumstances,” she noted.

Before her leadership at EGF, she served as Director of the New York State Mentoring Program, and later, as CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), which developed SEO Scholars, one of the premier college preparatory programs in the country.

Cynthia currently sits on the board of Philanthropy New York, Year Up, Fund for Modern Courts and is a member of Hispanics in Philanthropy, New America Alliance and the Donor’s Forum, to name a few. She is a frequent television commentator and has lectured at Columbia University, the Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Conference, and the National Council for Community and Education Partnership.   She will be a panelist at the 15th New America Alliance Wall Street Summit this October of 2015.

Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila spearheading the NAA American Latina Leadership Caucus

LIBizus New logo w bylineNAALOGO tagline



“Leadership is the behavior that brings the future to the present, by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help you make it a reality.” – Matt Barney, founder and CEO, LeaderAmp
Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila, New America Alliance’s CEO

At last year’s New America Alliance Wall Street Summit, a new initiative to increase the presence of Latinas in strategic business and civic positions was announced: The American Latina Leadership Caucus. Now, the Caucus is ready to launch in cities around the country.

“For a long time, the New America Alliance has celebrated and recognized American Latino women’s achievements. However, NAA leaders feel there is still a great need to increase the presence of Latina leaders in every corner of this country’s economic and political life,” said Maria del Pilar Avila, CEO, New America Alliance (NAA).

According to Avila, the Caucus is an opportunity for Latinas to be part of a group of influencers who will provide inside intelligence and information about board, corporate, political or non-profit openings while identifying the right candidates from their personal and professional networks.

“The idea is to encourage Latina leadership in different sectors, industries, markets and even across generations as well as to have a balanced vision of diverse Latina’s backgrounds. Through a communication mechanism, these influencers will seek recommendations to search for candidates, exchange biographies and resumes, have conversations with potential candidates, and help them move forward once the right candidates are identified,” she explained.

American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

Avila herself is a true example of the type of leadership the organization is trying to support. After serving as founding NAA’s Executive Director from 1999 to 2005, Pilar rejoined the organization in May 2010 as Chief Executive Officer.

She personifies the NAA mission of accelerating the economic, political and human capital development of the American Latino community to build a stronger America. Under her leadership, NAA launched the Wall Street Summit, now in its 15th year. The Summit, a three-day event held in the financial capital of the world, brings to the forefront the contribution of American Latinos to the US economy and advocates for a greater inclusion of members of this community across several sectors.

Some of the event’s segments include the Pension Fund Initiative, which has opened access to billions of dollars for diverse asset managers as well as increase access to capital to Latino entrepreneurs; the new session #NewGenR3, A New Generation of American Latino Leaders: Renovate, Remix, Rise, which focused on the rise of new Latino leaders who are redefining their pathways to success and strengthening the pipeline of new leaders moving our nation forward; and the U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon, featuring insights into economic development and growth, improvement in education systems, expansion of infrastructure and community engagement across America’s cities.

 U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon at the NAA Wall Street Summit 2014

U.S. Mayors Forum & Luncheon at the NAA Wall Street Summit 2014

Now, this new initiative is at the heart of Avila’s commitment to the organization’s leadership. “Less than one percent of Latinas hold high corporate and/or leadership positions,” said the CEO. “We need to build new connections, strengthen the relationships among members of the Caucus, and increase the presence of these leaders who bring particular skills to any decision table,” Avila affirmed.

Caucus participation will be by referral or invitation only. Potential candidates will be seeking some level of recommendation from members of the organization.  “We are hosting a series of introductory dinner conversations to extend our invitation and gather recommendations from the extraordinary group of Latinas we seek to engage,” Avila said.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Avila’s grandparents were farmers; however, they instilled the eagerness for education in their descendants. Avila’s career started in hospitality management at the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau and the Caribe Hilton, after she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business and Hospitality Management from the University of Central Florida.

“It was a hard experience to come to the United States and face the world as a woman, a Puerto Rican and a Spanish-speaking immigrant,” she recalls. It took a hard process of acculturation for her to become a Latina, a very different experience coming from “La Isla” to the diaspora.

From 1996 to 1999, Avila was Vice President of Marketing & Events at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. At that position, she built a strong network of Latino entrepreneurs in key U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico markets while immersing herself in the complexity of Latino participation in business development, political advocacy and the advancement of corporate America.

New Generation NAA

A New Generation of American Latino Leaders panel at NAA Wall Street Summit 2014.

After her first round serving at the New America Alliance, in 2005 Avila joined Palladium Equity Partners as Vice President of Marketing, where she became mainly responsible for strategic marketing initiatives, investor relations, and the strengthening of the Palladium brand.  She was part of the team that raised a historic Hispanic market investment fund of $780 million in 2006.

Avila was recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Influentials” in 2010. She was also recognized as one of the “20 Most Influential and Outstanding Hispanic Women in Business” by Hispanic Trends Magazine (now PODER Enterprise). In 2004, she was awarded the New America Alliance Chairmen’s Leadership Award.

She now serves as Vice Chair of the Board of ConPRmetidos, a Puerto Rican millennial-led think-and-do tank working to transform the economy of the Island by linking Puerto Ricans to leaders stateside who can develop and facilitate economic opportunities for Puerto Rico.

“Our American Latina Leadership Caucus schedule has been set for seven cities around the country –some of the meeting dates to be confirmed. We expect to bring together more experienced leaders along with emerging ones to introduce them to build new connections. Also, we would like to bolster business development opportunities among its members and channel their energy to the next level of their success,” Avila concluded.

Follow the Caucus meetings’ schedule:

  • Washington DC – June 9
  • New York – June 10
  • Chicago – June 17
  • Los Angeles – July/August
  • San Antonio – September
  • Dallas – September
  • Miami – September