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LATINA Style 50 Awards Ceremony and Diversity Leaders Conference

LS 50 Award Recipients

Eleven years ago Anna Maria Arias, founder of LATINA Style Magazine, decided to explore in depth the importance of Latinas in the business world by launching the LATINA Style 50 Awards & Diversity Conference.

On Thursday, February 5th, 2009, LATINA Style celebrated its 11th year of the LATINA Style 50 Awards ceremony and its sixth annual Diversity Leaders Conference at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C. This one-of-a-kind event brought together the most prominent Latinos and Latinas from top corporations and government executives to recognize the 50 companies that have provided the best opportunities for Latinas in the workplace.

The one-day informative event offered career advice and provided workshops that serve as an extensive research tool to address the needs and concerns of the professional Hispanic woman in the workplace, providing a valuable reference tool for Latinas entering the workforce or changing careers. It also highlighted, promoted and brought recognition to the professional Latinas in corporate America.

The one-day informative event offered career advice and provided workshops that serve as an extensive research tool to address the needs and concerns of the professional Hispanic woman in the workplace, providing a valuable reference tool for Latinas entering the workforce or changing careers. It also highlighted, promoted and brought recognition to the professional Latinas in corporate America.

On the evening prior to the event, executives from Fortune 500 Companies to the White House gathered to celebrate leadership in corporate America at the Rayburn House Office Building’s Gold Room on Capitol Hill for a Leadership Reception that recognized community leaders, Congressmen and Congresswomen, sponsors and partners in their efforts for the Hispanic community and LATINA Style. Among the guest speakers were Congressman Ben Ray Luján, Representative from New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, and Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (CA-38).

After an evening of joy and networking, the following day began with breakfast and the encouraging words of award-winning journalist Marlene Fernandez of HITN. As the host of the show Destination Casa Blanca 2008 “One-on-One,” she explained how the project provided issues that matter to the Hispanic community during the 2008 elections, specifically the role Latinas played. “We have a place in the new administration,” she said with optimism. “I want to thank LATINA Style very much for giving us the opportunity to talk to you today. Latinas are the heart and soul of the Hispanic community.”

(L-R) Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (CA-38) and Congressman Ben R Luján (NM, 3rd District) at the Leadership Reception on Capitol Hill

Whether it’s through mentorship programs, recruitment, or leadership training, the companies present have committed to creating a work environment that will help Latinas to achieve their full potential. The first session of the day, “Nurturing Excellence: Developing Latina Executive Talent,” focused on the importance of strong mentorship and highlighted some of the key components of an employee’s successful development in the workplace. The session was moderated by Wilka Toppins, OVP, Strategic Partnerships, Macy’s Group. Panelists included Kate Lima, Director of Operations, McDonald’s USA, LLC; Francisca Martinez, VP of Talent Acquisition & Performance Development, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., LLC; and Ron Parker, Senior Vice President, Chief of Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer at PepsiCo.

The longstanding partnership of LATINA Style with Macy’s Inc, is an example of how much corporations take diversity into account. “Our commitment to Latinas is persistent and strong,” said Toppins. “As we all know, this is a tough time, and we want to make sure that through our panel, we give you strategies that you can use to enhance your career, and improve and advance in your profession despite the economic turmoil.”

During this panel, attendees learned the four key points on nurturing excellence. “First, the power of building relationships: How can building relationships enhance your career? Second, relevance: Nowadays, companies are laying off people, cutting expenses and trying to find a way to economize. How can we as employees, contractors, and consultants with our own businesses become more relevant so we don’t suffer? Third, how can enhancing your education—going back to school or pursuing a different line of education help you in your career? Last but not least is the importance of opportunities abroad, in the global arena. Don’t just focus in the U.S. market.”

Advice for those wanting to know how relationships help individuals nurture their careers, or the purpose of building relationships was provided through this panel. According to Lima, there are different types of relationships—external relationships—“where you get to meet people outside your company and industry, because it opens doors for you.” And internal relationships, “The ones you build within your own company, the relationships within your own team—your colleagues, and your boss, build your reputation, she says. “We get better at what we do and we get more done.”

In regards to the global arena, Parker recommends everyone to expand their horizons. “Follow an education and experiential process, invest in institutions of law, expand your knowledge,” he asserted. “There are opportunities out there. You have to be very strategic about identifying where they are and then apply the opportunity to it.”

This year, for the first time, LATINA Style developed a conversation on the financial crisis. The workshop was entitled: “Preparing for Economic Survival,” and it addressed the current economic downturn that the nation is facing. Presented by Monika Fontanez, a financial services associate at Prudential Financial, Inc., topics included preparing a recovery plan, preparing for downsizing, investing in your child’s education and the 401(k) values.

Joe Ruiz, VP & General manager, California Small Group Business, WellPoint, Inc.

For people planning to retire, Fontanez thoroughly explained “The Retirement Red Zone,” the 5-year period before and the 5-year period after retirement, which may represent the most critical time of your investing life. Poor market performance during this period can seriously affect the portfolio. Therefore, she advises businesswomen to evaluate retirement assets, and make every effort to grow and protect those assets.

“Whether your concern is the 401(k), educational loans, home mortgages or savings, what matters is how you invest your money,” she said as she explained prospectives in the market and annuity investment factors. “No matter how bad the market is, you can still earn some money.”

After the outlook on the financial crisis, attendees were able to learn about the 2010 Census through Merarys Rios-Vargas, Statistician Demographer, Ethnicity & Ancestry Branch, Population Branch, U.S. Census Bureau. She provided an overview on the Hispanic Population specifically on what have been the trends for the past 30 years and on the future projections for Hispanics in the United States. Topics of discussion were: Population: size and growth; geographic distribution; and the most recent portrait in terms of socio-economic characteristics and demographics. According to Rios-Vargas, the source of data is based on Census Count, using population estimates which are annual estimates, population projections and the American community survey, which is based on the 2007 data, “Hispanic population—1970-2050.”

Following the 2010 Census projections, Norma Martinez Lozano, Sr. VP – Merger Transition, AT&T Services, Inc. welcomed the third panel of the day, “Executive Roundtable: Diversity as a Business Imperative.” Panelists included, Nellie Borrero, Global Inclusion & Diversity Director at Accenture; Mariana Brugger, Human Resources, VP, Northeast Division of Wal-Mart; Patt Romero Cronin, IBM General Manager Integrated Technology Delivery, IBM and Jeanne De Amicis Stitt, VP of Multicultural Markets at UnitedHealthcare. These four Latina executives have experienced diversity and inclusion first-hand and have been able to measure the impact these practices have in their business environment.

“What programs does your corporation have that address the diverse marketplace?”, Martinez Lozano asked the panelists. For Borrero, the focus within Accenture is creating leadership roles for everyone in the organization, “to develop skills and talent.”
Within IBM, Romero Cronin explained the various programs and ways the company addresses diversity. Whether it’s through the multi-year program, which encourages kids to stay in school, or science camps, children are taught at an early age the types of careers available for them. At the university level, IBM partners with the National Society of Hispanic Engineers and diverse leadership programs. “We focus on “how do we maintain the Latinos and Latinas that we have in the company? How do we help all of them as they continue to go along the way and how do we continue to get Hispanic executives into the ranks,” she explained.

Within United Healthcare, rather than looking at what is done for employees, De Amicis Stitt interprets it as to what is being done for the Latino marketplace. “It’s everything from understanding the value of health insurance, getting people access to portable health care, getting people to providers, and finding physicians that speak the language and understand the culture,” she explains. “What we do is take some of them and make them completely bilingual so when they are in the market, they can read the material. We also contribute dollars to diverse scholarship programs because we know that with higher education among Latinos, the purpose is to have qualified Hispanics in language competent positions.”

(L-R) Alejandra Castillo, Esther Aguilera, president & CEO, CHCI; Cynthia J. Brinkley, AT&T Services, Inc., and Susan Santana, AVP, AT&T

As these Latinas continued to discuss their success stories in corporate life, they were more than willing to share with everyone that one piece of advice that significantly impacted their career.

At age 25, De Amicis Stitt, was told “’If this was your business, what would you do?’” she said. “I use that often, it’s much easier to get to decisions.”

For Romero Cronnin, the best advice was “you own your career.” According to her experience, a couple of facets come along as a new role evolves. The first is “how do you do better on your role than the person before you and how do you exceed the role that you are given? Second, strategies: understand the strategy that your corporation is going. “The hardest for me is that you have to promote what you’ve done, people need to know what you’ve accomplished, and the type of leadership you’ve done. Make sure you have the right mentors. It’s a give and take.”

At the age of 24, Brugger took the following advice: “If you think you can do it, you are right. If you think you can’t do it, you are right,” she said. “I like to take the best of both worlds.”

After a full morning of discussions, attendees made their way to the awards ceremony luncheon, in which several senior White House Latino officials spoke. “I am really honored and am proud to be here with all of you, proud to congratulate you on this great endeavor and to reflect on what it means to keep this dream going,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of Intergovernmental Affairs and the first Latina to be appointed to President Obama’s administration. “It’s an extraordinary moment for us as Latinas, for our community, for the country and we are so much a part of that.” With great pride, she told the story of how 20 years ago the Latino community was considered invisible. With her head up high, she exclaimed that today the Latino community is no longer invisible. “It is important to reflect and celebrate that we are at the table, and to a certain extend that we own the table,” she said. “We got to this moment because we are at the table and what matters is what we have done.”
With honor and appreciation, Moises Vela, director of Administration for the Office of the Vice President, congratulated those who have made it to the top and encouraged everyone to move forward, to persevere, to dream and to make things happen. “Here we sit because of this one woman who had the courage, her perseverance, the dream and the vision, and it inspires me all the time,” he said. “Together we are much more powerful, then apart or alone. In honor of Anna Maria Arias, I say to all of you congratulations – felicitaciones to each one of you,” he said. “I am deeply proud to be a Hispanic and see a lot of successful Latinas and Latinos. Thank you so much and God bless each of you.”

As the moment to introduce the 2008 Company of the Year approached, Norma Martinez Lozano, Sr. Vice President – Merger Transition at AT&T Services, Inc. communicated the enthusiasm in receiving such recognition. “Congratulations to all the corporations that are being honored in 2008 LATINA Style 50” she stated. “On behalf of the men and women of AT&T, I thank LATINA Style for granting us the honor of being selected the 2008 company of the year. AT&T is proud and humble by this honor, diversity has always been essential to AT&T’s business success and it is a part of our culture, it is because of the talented group of men and women at AT&T that we are able to serve our distinctive customer base and deliver results.”
Because diversity and inclusion matters to AT&T, they have launched several programs and resource groups such as HACEMOS, in which the Hispanic employee association at AT&T were able to provide the Hispanic workforce with continued professional development opportunities that helped them learn and grow from the senior leaders in the company. “We’re also proud of the minority women and companies that we do business with as they serve to help make AT&T one of the most admired companies in the world. We are very proud with this legacy and will continue to work hard to increase contracting opportunities for diverse businesses as we move in the future.”

Moises Vela, director of Administration for the Office of the Vice President

Cindy Brinkley, Senior Vice President-Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer at AT&T Services, Inc., greeted the audience as the highest-ranking Latina of the 50 best companies of the year lined-up in recognition to receive the award on stage. “It’s great to be here,” said Brinkley. “This is a huge honor for AT&T. “I know everybody here has a strong commitment to diversity or you shouldn’t be here. I think now more than ever, at this historic time, it is impossible not to feel the real power of diversity.”

Because diversity is essential to AT&T, and to most companies present, a focus on workforce inclusion is of utmost importance. “We have to go forward, so we have put a huge emphasis on the organization and on talent development, and in particular identifying Latinas, other persons of color and females to make sure who these individuals are, who are talented, who can take on more responsibility in the future, develop and move up the ranks,” she stated. “Making sure we develop our folks, making sure that they have strong skills so they can compete is very important. Thank you very much for this honor, for the chance to be part of this wonderful activity and congratulations to the other recipients as well.”

It is certain that diversity has become essential to the way most corporations do business. Our countries’ changing demographics are driving the way corporations hire, service their customer base and appeal to different sectors. Attendees learned that corporations have a role to play in ensuring that they not only recruit the best talent, but train them and retain them, while looking at ways to deliver the best services in culturally relevant ways. Each panel provided insights on numerous issues pertaining to their companies’ diversity and inclusion practices, recruitment efforts in the Latino community and recommendations for Latinas on how to best tackle the current economic environment.

Congratulations to all the winners and the honorable mentions!

Monika Fontanez, financial services associate at Prudential Financial, Inc. WellPoint, Inc. Team (L-R): Brenda Burke, Monica Frias, Joe Ruiz, and Linda Jimenez Marlene Fernandez, HITN Attendee asks question during the open discussion session Norma Barnes-Euresti - Kellogg Company Rebeca Vargas - JP Morgan Chase
(L-R) Monica Martinez, Comerica Bank; Wilka Toppins, Macy’s, and Felisa Insignares, Procter & Gamble Edward McFalls, BNSF Railway Co. and Edie Fraser, Ray & Berndtson Merarys Rios-Vargas, Statistician Demographer, Ethnicity & Ancestry Branch, Population Branch, U.S. Census Bureau Pedro Suriel, Christina Naugle, LaMae Allen deJongh, and Nellie Borrero from Accenture (L-R) Norma Martinez Lozano, AT&T; Nellie Borrero, Accenture; Mariana Brugger, Wal-Mart; Patt Romero Cronin, IBM and Jeanne De Amicis Stitt, UnitedHealthcare. (L-R) Jon G. Muñoz, Sprint; Carlos Soto, National Hispanic Corporate Council, and Art Ruiz, State Farm
. Mariana Brugger - Wal-Mart Stores, Inc Jeanne De Amicis Stitt - UnitedHealthcare Kate Lima and Astrid Delgado of McDonald's Corp. Attendees learn ways to prepare for the economic crisis Estrella Jimenez - Colgate-Palmolive Company Lily Zaidman-Leguizamon - PepsiCo, Inc
Wilka Toppins - Macy's Wilka Toppins - Macy's Annette R. Martinez - State Farm Patt Romero Cronin - IBM Grace Torres - Prudential Financial, Inc. (L-R) Edie Fraser, Ray & Berndtson; Lupita Colmenero, El Hispano News; Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Moises Vela, director of Administration for the Office of the Vice President
 
(L-R) Norma Martinez Lozano, Sr. VP – Merger Transition, AT&T Services, Inc.; Cynthia J. Brinkley, Sr. VP of Talent Development, and Chief Diversity Officer at AT&T Services, Inc. and Susan Santana, assistant vice president, External Affairs, AT&T (L-R) Ron Parker, PepsiCo.; Francisca Martinez, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.; LLC, Wilka Toppins, Macy’s Group, and Kate Lima, McDonald’s USA, LLC Maruiel Perkins-Chavis, Joseph Carrillo, Al Rodriguez, Violeta Seidell, Michael Tobolski, George Portez, Charleen Allen from Marriott International Inc. Jaime G. Gonzalez, UnitedHealthcare; Zayra Fosse, Macy’s; Wilka Toppins, Macy’s; Christina Fulton Macy’s and Jeanne De Amicis Stitt – UnitedHealthcare    
By Gloria Romano
[This article has been edited for www.latinastyle.com. For the full version, check out the March/April issue of LATINA Style.]
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