“We need to speak up about social justice” says Prospanica CEO Thomas Savino

Thomas Savino is the Chief Executive Officer of Prospanica, the nationally recognized and premier nonprofit dedicated to developing Hispanic talent and growing the number of Hispanic professionals represented in the industries of America to perpetuate economic growth and corporate competitiveness.

Recently Thomas spoke to Latinas in Business CEO and President, Susana G Baumann in an interview, where they discussed how Prospanica is working to address social justice issues through its new Center for Social Justice. 

Celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Center for Social Justice was established with the mission to  “improve our ability to have critical conversations about social justice issues as a diverse and multi-faceted community. We want to encourage civil discourse and make it easier and more available.” 

Three driving forces in the creations of the Center for Social Justice

Through the Center for Social Justice, Prospanica is taking an important step toward addressing the most pressing social issues affecting the Hispanic community today. 

Before the creation of the Center, Prospanica, like many organizations, steered clear of these topics. For a long time, corporations and organizations avoided conversations about divisive topics such as social justice issues. 

However, in recent years there has been a noticeable shift, especially in corporate America. Social issues are now at the forefront of every conversation. People want to know where the corporations and companies they trust stand on these issues. This shift is one of the three main drivers that lead to the creation of the Center.

“Corporate America is far different, say from 1988 than it is today. If we look at the conversations and the statements they’re making, and the efforts they’re making, the conversation is vastly different,” said Thomas. “And the way they’re trying to open and change their culture is far more compelling today than it was, frankly, even five years ago, right, let alone in 1990. There are all sorts of experts out there, corporate CEOs of Fortune 500 companies saying we must have a just society, and here are the issues….We see this all over the place and so that’s one key thing, that corporations who are key funders to everything we do have essentially changed where they are.” 

With corporations now opening up to having these conversations, came the need for education and training in how to have these conversations. This was the second key driver in the creation of the Center. 

“I think because we’ve never spoken about it, it’s a missing component of what we speak about as Prospanica. We want to promote education, but social justice issues impact the Hispanic community and how we get educated. They impact how you know, how we graduate, where we live, all those sorts of things. So it’s important to fold it in, it’s a missing piece of what we talked about when we want to work with safe young professionals doing professional development. So that’s the second piece we’ve never really addressed,” said Thomas. 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Lastly, the third driver was Generation Z and the events of the past year. From the pandemic to social unrest, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more, it became clear that there was a need in the community for these discussions and conversations surrounding social issues. 

Among all of this, Generation Z has been leading the way and pushing for action and impact. “What they’re saying is, you got to have an impact now. And so you got to address these things head-on,” Thomas said. “The younger people expect the corporations where they work and where they put their money to address these issues now.”  

Opening the conversation 

The Center for Social Justice was overwhelmingly well received. Still, there were some, particularly those of older generations, who questioned and challenged its purpose. For many, the issues that the Center would address were topics that older generations had been taught not to speak about. 

The first goal of the Center was born out of this reluctance to speak out. Part of the Center’s mission is to help teach and prepare members to speak about these subjects in a professional, non divisive manner. 

“We didn’t grow up learning to have these types of discussions,” said Thomas. “So this is a way of professional development, another way to teach our professionals wherever you go, you name it doesn’t matter what your politics are, you can speak about this in a professional, non-divisive manner. And then it’s a way for the organization as a whole to start researching these things and learn a lot more.” 

The Center for Social Justice combines research, dialogue, and training to educate and inform. Tackling social issues such as DACA and Immigration Reform, The Afro Latino Experience, Black Allyship, The Black Lives Matter Movement, Colorism in Latino History, and more the Center is committed to having open conversations about the issues affecting the Hispanic community today. 

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Only in their first year, the Center is still growing and building, with initiatives such as supporting the Hispanic Promise and opening scholarships up to DACA students, something they had previously never done before. Still, as a nonprofit organization, Prospanica remains cautious as they navigate political and social issues. Here is where the partnership with other organizations is key. 

“We’re still very careful with the political world. Well, one because listen, we’re not very experienced with that. And to the politicians can be tough. I’d rather go talk to my peers at Unidos U.S. and LULAC, for instance, and kind of get their take on it,” said Thomas. 

Through collaboration, dialogue, and partnership, the conversation continues as the Center works to address and educate professionals on these cultural social issues to create a better, more just, and diverse world for current and future generations. 

Anthony Lopez legacy leader

Anthony Lopez The Legacy Leader talks about female leadership

A leadership expert and best-selling author of The Legacy Leader, sought after consultant and inspiring speaker, Anthony Lopez is President & General Manager of Ansell’s Medical Solutions Global Business. Tony joined the Board of Directors of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (now Prospanica) in December 2012, where he currently serves as the Chairman of the Board.

Anthony Lopez legacy leader

Anthony Lopez at 2016 Prospanica National Conference – Chapter Leader’s Professional Development Session

Google the word “leadership” and you will find millions of entries with different takes and perspectives of the concept of leadership, even different schools of thought on the topic. However, it only takes four entries on Google’s first page to find “Legacy Leader” by Anthony “Tony” Lopez.

Tony is the author of the book series better known as The Legacy Leader, which includes The Legacy Leader: Leadership With A Purpose (1st and 2nd editions); Breakthrough Thinking: The Legacy Leader’s Role In Driving Innovation, The Leader’s Lobotomy: The Legacy Leader Avoids Promotion Induced Amnesia, and The Leader In the Mirror; The Legacy Leader’s Critical Self-Assessment.

I met Anthony Lopez at a Prospanica event in NYC and the audience could immediately feel the passion of a presenter who not only had a conviction but also an enjoyment in leadership. When I approached him to become a speaker at our upcoming “The 3 Pillars of Effective Female Leadership” business retreat, I discovered another trait of a great leader: generosity.

I asked to sit down with him and have a candid interview about his favorite topic, and these are his answers:

Q: Why did you want to be a leader? How did you decide leadership was your “call”?

Anthony Lopez legacy leader

Anthony Lopez plays his first game ever of Cricket during the 2017 Medical Manufacturing Leadership Conference (team building activity) in Sri Lanka (May 2017). Tony’s motto is to Work Hard, Play Harder and Live Well.

A: I do not think anyone grows up thinking, “I want to become a leader.” In childhood, most of us first think about becoming a police officer, firefighter, a doctor or a nurse, an actor or even Batman. Maybe a few kids grow up thinking… “I’m going to become a CEO or a business leader, or a Governor, or the President of the USA.” I suppose some do. I’d probably be a little nervous about those kids…”

“Most of us grow up and are placed in situations that afford us the chance to lead; we either take it or not. Some people have tendencies that cause them to lead naturally, personality traits such as inner drive, self-motivation, and an innate desire to play hard and win. For others, it might not come as natural but when they are thrust into a leader’s role, they excel and do well.”

“And then there are others for whom leadership is simply not their thing. Going back to the old question: are leaders born or made? The answer is a bit of both. People are born with certain traits and personality tendencies. Then, depending on the environment they are exposed to, the education they receive, their life experiences or situations to which they are exposed and other factors such as family and community influence as well as opportunity or need, they blossom as leaders and grow into the role.”

“For me, do I consider it a calling? I guess I do. It began with sports in early life; then as a cadet in the Air Force, I was always exposed to opportunities to lead, and I gravitated towards them rather naturally. As a calling, I have a mission: make my family, friends and colleagues proud of the legacy I will leave behind when I am gone.

Q: So what is a Legacy Leader? How can leaders become Legacy Leaders?

A: The Legacy Leader is the subject of an entire series of books! Put simply, as I said before, it is leaving behind a legacy that will make others proud, creating something of greater worth than ourselves, leading selflessly and with the interest of your team, your organization, company, community, and even your country in mind first, rather than your own interest. A Legacy Leader’s mission is to enable others to achieve great things; actions and results that perhaps they would not have thought were possible. Most importantly, they enable people to achieve their greatest potential; that is what legacy leaders do. Becoming one is a life-long journey. I am still working on it.”

Q: How do you think men can support female leadership in every aspect of their lives –work, family, life, career?

Anthony Lopez legacy leader

Anthony Lopez with his almost 10 month old baby granddaughter Maddie. She was born on his birthday in 2016. Napping together in his backyard in Celebration, Florida.

A: First, one of the most important responsibilities of leaders is people development. Great leaders spend a significant portion of their time thinking about and working on this task. Mentoring, coaching, enabling, sponsoring, recruiting, and even firing is all part of how great leaders build great teams and create organizations that can achieve the vision and mission established.”

“That said, leaders also need to be quite thoughtful of developing diverse talent in their organization. Diversity is a key competitive advantage for any team to have. Specifically, having strong, assertive, capable and motivated women on a team makes that team unbeatable. Women bring a unique and different perspective to the workplace. Nurturing their personal and professional growth, enabling them to contribute, to be promoted, and making sure they are given all the opportunities to succeed, is simply smart business for any leader.”

“A leader needs to have a healthy level of emotional intelligence themselves. He or she needs to understand the different dynamics that play out for women in the workplace, and they need to first make sure that they are creating a level playing field where women can effectively contribute, be heard, and are offered leadership opportunities in which they can succeed and showcase their skills.”

“Leaders also need to make sure they are sensitive to creating good work-home balance for both men and women. This is especially important for women as they very typically play two or three roles, as professionals in the workplace, moms or caregivers at home, and overall family engineers. Men also play those roles as well but let’s face it, still today, this falls primarily on women who are expected to do it all! And when ‘family life’ gets in the way, it can be a detriment to the woman’s advancement –not necessarily the same is true for a man. A leader needs to be aware of some of these dynamics and remove obstacles for women as they are developing. Bottom line, strong women on a team, make for an invincible team. The smart leader –the Legacy Leader– knows that.”

To meet Anthony Lopez in person and get a signed copy of his book, register here for “THE 3 PILLARS OF EFFECTIVE FEMALE LEADERSHIP” on June 3rd in Glenpointe, Teaneck NJ.

Anthony Lopez Bio

speakers business retreat 2017

Anthony Lopez, National Chair, Prospanica, and best-selling author, The Legacy Leader Book Series.

Tony is a sought after speaker and expert on leadership and management topics. He has presented to audiences throughout the United States and Latin America; and thousands of people have attended his presentations. Tony holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, and a MS in Engineering Management. He is also a graduate of the Department of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

In 1985, Tony was commissioned as an Air Force Officer. He was first assigned as an Electro-Optics Engineer and Program Manager in the Air Force Avionics Laboratory. After being promoted to Captain, he was assigned as a Flight Test Director for the 4950th Test Wing in Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

In 1991, he left active duty but remained in the Air Force Reserves where he served as a Human Resources Officer until 1998. Tony joined ETHICON, Johnson & Johnson in 1991. While at J&J, he held positions as Director for Corporate Controls & CIM Engineering, Business Unit Manager in ETHICON San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico Facility, sales representative, Product Director for General Surgery & Surgical Mesh Franchise, Senior Product Director.

In 2003 Tony transferred to DePuy Orthopaedics as Director, Knee Marketing. In 2005, he was promoted to Director for Strategic Marketing & Communications. The next year, Tony was appointed as the General Manager and Director of Integration to lead HAND INNOVATIONS, LLC., a Miami based company acquired by DePuy.

In December 2006 he was promoted to Vice President, International Marketing & Market Development for Trauma & Extremities in DePuy, and continued his role as GM in Hand Innovations until July 2008.

Tony served as Chairperson for the Hispanic Organization for Leadership & Achievement (HOLA) at Johnson & Johnson. From 2009 to 2011 Tony was the Senior Vice President & General Manager for Respiratory in CareFusion – a $750M global business. He moved to his current position in Ansell in 2011. He is responsible for all aspects of Ansell’s Medical Device Segment, and all P&L for a $500M global business. He is the founder of L&L Associates, A Leadership & Management Consulting group.

He is also the author of The Diversity Engagement Model: From Awareness to Action” (published in The Journal for Hispanic Business Research, October 2008), See You at the Wake: Healing Relationships Before It’s Too Late and Jag: Christian Lessons From My Golden Retriever.

His military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal (2), the Air Defense Service Medal, and the Aerospace Primus Award. His Johnson & Johnson awards include: the ETHICON quality award (3), J&J Standards of Leadership Award (3), The J&J Achievement Award (4); The EHICON Silver Award (2); The ETHICON Bronze Award (5), the ETHICON Rainbow Award (8), the 2006 DePuy President’s Award, and the J&J Burke Award for Marketing Excellence. He is also a two-time winner of the Telly, a prestigious industry award. Tony is a 3rd Degree Black belt in the American Association of Taekwondo and a Black Belt in the International Federation of TaeKwonDo. He enjoys reading, writing, and physically challenging sports.