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A champion for change: Spotlight on Latina of the month Beth Marmolejos

Latina Leader of the Month, Beth Marmolejos is a business leader, activist and advocate who strives toward serving as an champion for change daily in both her personal and professional life. 

A Champion for change 

Beth’s passion for helping others is unrelenting and inspires her to be a champion for change working to help minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities. 

champion for change

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

“I live my life everyday in service of others. As a Business Executive, I support the Senior Leaders of the market, striving toward satisfying their business priorities in support of business growth. On a personal level, I advocate for the underrepresented in the corporate world and my local community,” says Beth. 

To achieve her mission, Beth serves on numerous boards that support and serve these communities. Some of her positions include  Madame Chair of the Passaic County Workforce Investment Board, Chair of the Passaic County Advocacy and Abilities Committee and Diversity & Inclusion Chair of the American Association of University Women – Greater Wayne Area, and President of the New Jersey Prospanica Chapter, formerly known as The National Society of Hispanics MBAs.

“The goal of the Prospanica New Jersey is to make an immediate impact on the development and visibility of Hispanic professionals and students in the State of New Jersey,” says Beth. “We achieve this goal by assisting corporations in the recruitment, development, engagement, retention and advancement of Hispanic Business Professionals. Organizing and participating in strategic networking and community events to provide opportunities for career growth, leadership development and entrepreneurship for Hispanic business professionals.”  

The power of collaborations 

In the last year Beth has been named “138 most Influential Latinos in New Jersey” by the INDEX Latino 2019, was recognized by the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders during National Women’s History Month with the Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence award, Co-Authored Today’s Inspired Latina Volume VI, been a guest speaker at the SHE Emprendedoras Conference in Belgium. Then in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth co-founded the FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) of Greater Wayne and advocated for the opening of the 1st Inclusion Playground in Wayne, NJ. Least to say, it’s been quite a busy year! 

champion for change

The opening of the 1st Inclusion Playground in Wayne, NJ (Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

Most recently, Beth co-hosted LatinasInBusiness’ 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.”  

On the event Beth had to say: 

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. 

You might be interested: Women self-empowerment: the culture of diva-ness vs the power of collaboration

Rising up together post-COVID 

Navigating our world post-COVID has shone a light on the power we have as individuals to come together as champions for change and support one another. 

One of the many ways Beth has been using her position to affect change is by co-founding the Front Line Appreciation Group of Greater Wayne (FLAG) in collaboration with Wayne Township Mayor. The group is dedicated to helping feed and support front-line health care workers and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic while also keeping the local-owned restaurants in business. So far the group has raised $100,000, provided over 12,000 meals to 18 front-line groups (hospitals, EMTs, Fire Departments, etc.) and helped 20 local restaurants.

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

Additionally, as President of the Prospanica NJ Chapter, Beth has worked to help the chapter overcome challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The main struggle that we faced was the cancellation of our in-person events, along with increasingly severe ‘social distancing’ restrictions and current economic conditions,” says Beth. “We have since shifted our respective mindset and as a result our chapter has been able to accomplish a great deal in the first half of 2020, overcoming these challenges by thinking differently and by collaborating with other sister’s organizations. Finding new ways to achieve success and soar while delivering benefits to our sponsors and members. #RiseUpTogether!”

The makings of a leader and champion for change

Beth wears many hats in life, from being a business executive, an advocate and champion for change, a philanthropist, community leader, serving on nonprofit boards, and being a wife and mother. 

(Photo courtesy Beth Marmolejos)

“I am blessed to be married to my high school sweetheart and I have two beautiful boys, one of which is Autistic and the inspiration to many of the things that I volunteer for,” says Beth. 

Some may wonder how Beth manages to get everything done, being so involved in many organizations, projects, and collaborations. But looking at her strengths it soon becomes clear. Beth is an extremely disciplined, focused and organized strategic thinker and connector. Her discipline keeps her focused on completing tasks toward her goals and achieving results while her passion for advocacy, politics, human rights and more is the fuel that drives her. Beth can see beyond problems to find effective solutions and once she sets her heart on something she rarely will deviate from achieving it, even if it takes years. 

Crucial to her ability to juggle all those hats is staying organized. 

“I do not have a lot of free time so I am extremely organized to be able to do all the things that I do,” Beth says. “Once a friend told me that I get done in a week a human cannot accomplish in months.” 

Another key to her success has been the confidence instilled in her from a young age. 

“Confidence has helped me,” Beth says, recounting a story from childhood. “My mother used to take me to work.  I played in the Accounting Department with an old fashioned paper calculator.  That experience taught me that I was going to go to college and work in an office.  I also learned to be comfortable around senior leaders, because my mother and I lunched with the executive team.  Interacting with them built my confidence and made me feel comfortable around executives.  That had a big impact on me.  What is funny is that I graduated with an accounting degree and a Masters in Finance – with honors.”

Truly Beth’s drive and accomplishments are an inspiration to us all! 

A recipe for success

If you’re feeling inspired and ready to become a champion for change in your own field and achieve success in your personal and professional life, Beth offers her top 3 pieces of advice.

  1. Treat people with respect: If you are kind and a team player,that creates a good reputation that you can leverage to obtain better opportunities within your organization
  2. If you want something, be BOLD and be a can-do type of person: Being bold will help you seize opportunities and a can-do attitude will give you leverage in obtaining senior roles. 

Beth recounts one of her earliest bold moments at age 13: 

“My mother was the secretary of Dominican President Salvador Guzmán and she invited me and some of my friends to visit her at the Presidential Palace.  As the tour guide stopped to talk to someone, I had my friends sneak out and take the elevator to meet the President.  We ended up finding our way to his office and asked the guards if we could see him. Eventually, the President came out to greet us and he proudly brought us to his office where he showed us a picture of Pope Juan Pablo II and his wife.  Soft-spoken, very amicable, he spoke to us for a few minutes.  When I told my mother what had happened, she looked at me with a grin and said she was proud of what I had done.”  

  1. Lastly, be happy, positive and knowledgeable: This mindset is a magnet that will attract people to want to work with you!
women self-empowerment

Women self-empowerment: the culture of diva-ness vs the power of collaboration

Since we launched Latinas in Business in 2014, our mission was clear: To create a dynamic and diverse community seeking to promote, support and stimulate the economic empowerment of Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs in the United States.

Our collaborative purpose focuses on telling their stories, bringing attention to their innovation and creativity, their power and ingenuity, and providing them with tools, programs, and resources that encourage them to persist in achieving their dreams.

(L to R) Lori Margolin, HCCC; First Lady of NJ Tammy S. Murphy; Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business; and Jackie Cacho, Triunfo Latino

Latinas in Business is a volunteer-based organization, and most of the work is done by the power of collaborations except when services are provided to us by third-parties. With 1600 members around the country, so far we have freely promoted over 800 women entrepreneurs and career women in our LatinasinBusiness.us magazine, organized over 15 Workshops, 5 Annual Pitch Competitions and 4 Annual Latina SmallBiz Expos.

Along these years, we have invited on stage speakers from all industries, starting at the level of micro-entrepreneurs and going up to corporate leaders and relevant political figures – Lieutenant Governor of NJ Sheila Oliver, First Lady Tammy Murphy, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, Chief Diversity Officer of the NJ Office of Diversity & Inclusion Hester Agudosi, and Chief Diversity NYC Office of the Comptroller Wendy Garcia, among others.

We have promoted hundreds of events produced by strategic partners, and I have participated as a speaker in many others without collecting a penny.

All done through and in the spirit of the power of collaborations.

Women self-empowerment, what is?

Women self-empowerment is not a new fight. Our mothers and grandmothers and their female ancestors fought for the rights that many of us, and especially younger generations, take for granted. It is passed from generation to generation in the forms that are most unimaginable.

The other day, for instance, I was playing with my granddaughters, 7 and 8. They are in between the age of “princesses,”

women self-empowerment

Jennie Park mydisneyadventures / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

“boys are gross,” and happy endings for women mean “saving the world by fighting the odds,” an insistent message that Walt Disney Productions has produced in the last decade or so, in search of new forms of “feminism.”

True it is, that “Tangled,” “Brave,” “Frozen” and “Moana” all feature stronger, more independent heroines, a break from the traditional helpless female characters of Cinderella and Snow White of the Disney classics. Nonetheless, the “princess” theme continues on… and it pisses me off.

Going back to my girls, we started discussing the topic of princesses, and how a woman does not have to be a princess in order to be her own self. It was a conversation about following your talents and inclinations, and making your own decisions when growing up. In the end, we agreed that the lesson was, “I am the boss of me.”

A couple of days later, my son calls me and vents, “What did you tell the girls?” The oldest refused to do something he was asking, citing “Your mother said you are not the boss of me, I am the boss of me.” Long story short, it was not the way the lesson was intended to be passed on.

How a princess becomes a diva and the culture of “diva-ness”

So, reality tells that not every woman is born a princess -although you can become one by marrying an aristocrat man. Moreover, many of the still existing crowns in the world continue to favor the heritage of male lineage.

As a result, we have come to the age of divas, spoiled women who want things their own way and boss people around. This is the only way I find to explain the Kardashians’ phenomenon, and many other reality TV shows. It is also common in the constant adoption of expressions such as “bossy diva” or “bossy Latina” or so many other expressions of falsely understood women self-empowerment. These self-qualifications used on social media with, I believe, provide a very poor image of themselves.

A study conducted about this topic, explained that “fans embed their favorite celebrity in their virtual social network in an attempt to bridge the gap between the desired fame, celebrity life and their own lives, hence reducing the discrepancy between the admired celebrity and their own selves.” In my own opinion, they are looking for external validation, something they probably do not find in their own environment.

Imitating and reproducing behaviors, actions and the image of supposed “celebrities” has caused a false sense of achievement and gained recognition. Brands and marketing agencies, as always,  quickly took advantage of influencers for their own benefit -a cheap way to get their brands into grassroot publicity, sometimes just in exchange for trying a product. Ladies and gents, we have arrived to the “culture of diva-ness”!

Photo credit Dainis Gravers – unsplash

Being a diva is not being a leader

This ego-centric idea that women self-empowerment embraces, the belief that everything and everybody in the world turns around the self, their sense of entitlement and of “self-deserved” notoriety or, what I call, the culture of diva-ness, is not good leadership. It is not even leadership.

The values held by great leaders are, by opposite, based on humility, integrity, wisdom, vision, authenticity, work and personal ethics, and most importantly, the value of respect, first to themselves and then to others -you cannot give what you do not have-, regardless of differences.

A great leader is compassionate, empathic, and treats others with dignity. Most importantly, it earns the respect of others by showing a constant sense of service to those they lead. Great leaders are recognized by others, they do not self-proclaim themselves.

Last but not least, a great leader shows courage to talk about topics that everybody else is afraid to touch upon.Anthony López, a sought-after expert on leadership and management topics, and the author of The Legacy Leader series, once said, “Leaders might not be born with courage but they show courage when the time comes to make decisions and take action.”

Women, it is time to talk.

You might be interested: 2019 Latinas in Business highlights and most read articles

A pervasive marketing culture continues to destroy women in so many ways

In their defense, the culture of diva-ness is not of their own making. In this pervasive environment we live in, in which everything is marketable and “monetizable,” and women are bombarded with mixed and even opposed messages, we must constantly prove ourselves to be “outstanding.”

The individualistic messages of women self-empowerment such as “speak up” and “talk for yourself” were generated in the seventies.  A movement called individualist feminism encouraged younger conservative women at the time to take full responsibilities of their own lives and choices about their bodies and their sexuality instead of being subdued by their male counterparts.

Naomi Wolf (Larry D. Moore / CC BY-SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The movement had thinkers like Naomi Wolf, a liberal political activist and writer who continued evolving her views into becoming one of the voices of the Third Wave-Feminism Movement. She argued that “beauty” as a normative value is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of that construction with the objective of maintaining women’s subjugation.

So now, as you see, the very essence of the movement that had tried to define women in other ways other than by their beauty or their image, has been paired up with the “culture of diva-ness.”

The messages young women receive every day have matched the individualistic sense of women self-powerment -which is a negative message that creates anxiety and mental disturbance if you are not an over-achiever- with the need of been constantly under the spotlight. Women must be perfectly groomed, forever young, and obsessed with a perfect body shape, source of a number of addictive behaviors that puts young women’s lives in constant danger.

Even actresses of my generation, which I love and admire, have fallen to the directives of a male-dominant society that continues to dictate how we should look and behave.

Each season of the comedy series, “Grace and Frankie,” with beloved Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, is the revelation of new stretched faces, to the point that they are hardly recognizable of who they really were. Interesting enough, the show tries to convey the message that “women of certain age” can still be vibrant and successful, even when confronted with the pain of aging. “My body is telling me that I’m getting old,” says Grace in an episode. “This is the first time I’m hearing it” (paraphrased). However, her body and her face “as seen on TV” do not show her real age at 82.

You might be interested: 4 Steps to deal with sudden retirement when forced to retire early

The role of image, money and success in women self-empowerment

women self-empowerment

(Photo Credit: Igor Rand, Unsplash)

This toxic and explosive message about “women self-empowerment” does not stop there. In addition to your image, you must be “successful,” which in most global societies, translates into having money, power and privilege.

Many times, I have used the expression “the culture of exitism,” to describe the incessant need of younger generations to become successful, not by means of working hard and producing results, -which many do and very well-, but the constant need “to be seen and exposed.” I was excited when I found a fellow Latino talking and explaining the concept on an article published in LinkedIn.

“Exitism is not a word, at least not in English that is. I couldn’t find a word that translates the concept I was working with to English in a full way so instead, I created one. Its root lays in the Spanish word “éxito,” which means “success.” The Spanish equivalent to Exitism is “Exitismo,” which basically means something like “being obsessed with success,” but most importantly it describes a trend, something many, many, many people follow: the obsession of being successful at any cost,” says Alejandro Cabral in his article, A simple reason why not to support ‘Exitism.’  

This obsession Alejandro so well describes with being successful at any cost has also pervaded into messages for women, a false sense of women self-empowerment in which it is acceptable to be immoral and unscrupulous -such as the heroine of Scandal, Olivia Pope and every one of the feminine characters of the show, and for that, of many shows- in order to achieve your goals.

Whatever it takes.

Women and money

If I hear the expressions “Nothing wrong with making money” or “How to make your first million dollars” and the likes one more time, I think I am going to scream. I am going to scream as loud as I can on social media and beyond.

The idea of people as money-making machines is not new, and very much ingrained in American society. A highly recommended article on The Atlantic cites, “As corporate consolidation and factories’ technological capabilities ramped up in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, additional techniques of capitalist quantification seeped from the business world into other facets of American society. By the Progressive Era, the logic of money could be found everywhere. ‘An eight-pound baby is worth, at birth, $362 a pound,’ declared The New York Times on January 30th, 1910. ‘That is a child’s value as a potential wealth-producer. If he lives out the normal term of years, he can produce $2900 more wealth than it costs to rear him and maintain him as an adult.’ The title of this article was ‘What the Baby Is Worth as a National Asset: Last Year’s Crop Reached a Value Estimated at $6,960,000,000.’”

women self-empowerment

As incredible as it might sound, the idea of monetary value of individuals in American society is as old as the country itself -think of slavery alone. “American businesspeople and policymakers started to measure progress in dollar amounts, tabulating social welfare based on people’s capacity to generate income. This fundamental shift, in time, transformed the way Americans appraised not only investments and businesses but also their communities, their environment, and even themselves,” Eli Cook, author of The Pricing of Progress: Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life, sustains.

So now, in addition to the pressures of their perfect self-image and self-empowerment, women also have line up in the flocks of self-money-makers, the sad obsession of being “self-made” or becoming successful or rich by one’s own efforts. They can tear each other apart to gain space and be at the top, while they continue in servitude, maybe not so much to the men in their lives, but to a male-dominant society that sets the rules for success.

You might be interested: Why Latino economic power is greater than political representation

How women still lag behind not only in #EqualPay and #MeToo

women self-empowerment

Infographics Women’s Philanthropy Institute

According to a comprehensive report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Americans gave $6.3 billion to nonprofits focused on women and girls in 2016. The Institute identified 45,000 organizations registered in the U.S. that it deemed “dedicated to serving primarily women and girls” or closely-associated causes such as domestic violence.

While nonprofit contributions gave a total of $396.5 billion that year, with the biggest chunk, $123.8 billion, earmarked toward religious organizations, $6.3 billion only represents about 1.6% of the total charitable giving Americans put forward in 2016.

Yes, you guessed right! There is no real interest in women’s empowerment and women’s advancement in society. Just the disproportionally amount of money given to religious organizations alone, one of the institutions that have most undermined women and other minorities’ advancement in society, should tell you something.

The power of collaboration, a value that must be taught and passed on

power of collaborations

Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business with M. Pilar Avila, RENOVAD

So, when you convoke other organizations working on women’s behalf and their leaders, you assume that, as we are all working towards the same purpose, they would respond in the same spirit of collaboration.

But in truth, many only respond following the acronym WIIIFM (What is in it for me? – Thanks to my colleague Carl Reid for sharing such wisdom.) Can you pay me $4000 for a keynote? Oh sorry, I have a schedule conflict. Can you write me a letter for $5000 in-kind donation? Oh, sorry, it’s only business. Can you support our volunteer-based organization promoting throughout your networks?  Oh, sorry, I can’t, it will alienate my members’ base.

And the stories just go on, and on and on.

That is why I cherish and value the women who have been by my side from all over the world, day in and day out, my sisters, my cheer leaders, the ones that do not let me throw the towel, the ones that keep showing up every time I call for help, advice or just to vent. The ones I laugh with and cry with. Those have me unconditionally now and forever.

We must teach the female generations in the pipelines that the values of women self-empowerment they so much defend for themselves are “trickled down” not to raise them up. On the opposite, those are the values of “dividing and conquering,” the “winners and the losers,” “the givers and the takers.”

If someone is a “winner,” then I will continue to work with the “losers.” If someone is a “taker,” I will continue to work with the “givers,” until we build a society that values people over profit. That is, to me, the biggest legacy we can accomplish for women through the real power of collaborations.

 

strategic alliances, the power of collaborations

The Power of WE NYC (L to R) Diana Franco, WE NYC; Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc.; JJuanita Galvis, The Assemblage; Bisila Bokoko, BBES International; Sarah Valdovinos, Walden Green Energy; and Rosario Ballesteros-Casas, VR Americas. (Photo Credit: Afrikanspot.nyc)