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LATINA Style 50 Awards & Diversity Leaders Conference

The 2016 LATINA Style 50 Awards Ceremony and Diversity Leaders Conference.

By Gloria Romano–Barrera.

LATINA Style hosted its 18th annual celebration of the LATINA Style 50 Awards Ceremony and the 13th Diversity Leaders Conference on Thursday, February 4th at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Commending Latina success in the United States, members of the U.S. congress, White House officials, CEO’s, and executives from throughout the country gathered at the nation’s capital to honor the top selected companies for Latinas to work for in the U.S.

Companies listed on the LATINA Style 50 Report were recognized for their dedication to Latina advancement. One company in particular demonstrated a strong commitment toward the advancement of Latinas. In 2015, continuing a long tradition of excellence and vision, Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to develop its diverse workforce stood above all others, making it possible for Latinas to shine and rise to the top.

Mistress of Ceremonies on-air Telemundo Reporter Claudia Carolina Curiel welcomed the audience with excitement. Soon after, president & CEO of LATINA Style Robert E. Bard welcomed guest speaker Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the stage.

“LATINA Style is about celebrating diversity, the expansion, the leadership, the exemplary work that Latinas do at every facet of business,” stated Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. “The drive to accomplish something and to contribute is what makes our community so exceptional and so influential,” she stated. “Our mission must be to enable and empower female entrepreneurship and support one another. To mentor other women and to outreach. With the drive and dedication of our Hispanic community we will further advance Latina representation and Latina achievement in all of the professional fields.”

Several companies such as Marriott International Inc., have successfully contributed to the development of the program. This year, Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President Multicultural Affairs, Marriott International, Inc. provided remarks on behalf of the company. “We believe in the importance of community and family and we are so happy that our supplier diversity program is so engaged with the Latina community,” he shared.

During the program, LATINA Style also presented the distinguished 2015 LATINA Style Corporate Executives of the Year Awards and the 2015 Employee Resource Group Awards. In addition to recognizing Comcast NBCUniversal as the 2015 company for Latinas to work for in the U.S., this exceptional day also highlighted the rest of the top companies selected for Latinas to work for in the United States.

Through the LATINA Style Corporate Executives of the year program, LATINA Style recognizes the hard work and dedication Latinas perform at the top of their respective company. Representing the 2015 Latina Corporate Executive of the Year was Grace Puma of PepsiCo. “I can’t tell you how surprised and how honored I am to receive this,” she said “This award means so much to all of us, this is a tremendous honor. There are so many people that have contributed to my life both professional and personally, I have a lot of gratitude for that. I am fortunate to work at an organization where we have very strong colleagues because I couldn’t accomplish what I have accomplished from a business perspective without their partnership. On a personal perspective I am equally grateful to those who have shaped me as a woman, and especially as a Latina. I’ve had a gratitude of too having first generation Cuban parents that taught me the values of hard work, of resilience, faith and gratitude. So I can honestly say everyday I wake up trying to be the best version of myself, contribute to my company as an executive, my kids and my husband. This is such an honor and I am so happy to have the opportunity to receive it.”

An employee resource group impacts a company’s bottom line. Since 2010, LATINA Style recognizes corporate employee resource groups that develop a connection between the company and their employees, helping to empower and retain Hispanic talent. LATINA Style took great pride in naming HIT of General Motors as the 2015 Employee Resource Group. Representing HIT of General Motors was Kenneth J. Barrett Jr. and Antoinette Fox. “I’m thrilled to be here on behalf of General Motors,” shared Fox. “The General Motors Hispanic Initiative Team is a vital communications link transmitting the ideas and thoughts of its employees to leadership and providing avenues for a continued conversation with the Hispanic community at large, and we take great pride in that. Our ERG works hard to ensure that Latinos and GM have the right tools to excel in their careers. This results in GM being one of the top places to work for Latinas. I am grateful to all who have recognized our efforts in light of the amazing ERG’s present today.”

The celebration of Latina leadership at the highest levels of corporate America continued with powerful and resourceful workshops on various topics. The first session titled: Diversity as a Business Imperative, focused on learning from executive leaders on how to strengthen the talent pipeline and prepare individuals to take over critical executive roles. Moderated by Nellie Borrero, Managing Director-Global Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture, panelists included Maria G. Arias, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion, Comcast Corporation; Kenneth J. Barrett, Chief Diversity Officer, General Motors; Mia Hairston, Chief Diversity Officer, Nationwide and Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Prudential Financial.

The second session of the day, provided by the 2015 LATINA Style Corporate Executives of the Year was moderated by Ileana Musa, Global Client Segment and Strategy for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Bank of America. Speakers included Myrna Soto, Corporate Senior VP, GCISO, Comcast Corporation; Sandra Lopez, Director of Strategic Alliances, New Devices Group, Intel Corporation; Ingrid Tolentino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hyatt Legal Plans, a wholly owned subsidiary of MetLife Co., and Patricia Diaz, Director of Hispanic Consumer Marketing, McDonald’s Corporation.

Soto believes peer mentorship is just as important as leadership mentorship. “Mentors come in many shapes and forms, they come at many levels and sponsorships are extremely important,” she stated. “Make sure people understand your ambition, what is it you are looking to do and what you bring to the table.”

Tapping into the collective intelligence of employee resource groups to provide competitive advantages in the marketplace, while ensuring the health and wellness of the corporate workforce was a dialogue taking place during the third session of the day “Empowering the Employee/Business Resource Groups.” Moderated by Antoinette Fox, President, GM Hispanic Employee Resource Group, General Motors, speakers included Mark Espinoza, Sr. Director, Public Affairs, Walmart; Veronica Riojas, Sr. Director of Category Management Frito-Lay North America, PepsiCo; Manuel Diaz, Senior Leadership Team Chair, Johnson & Johnson, and Cinthya L. Allen, External Affairs, AT&T.

An opportunity to hear inspiring leaders on how to leverage the company’s ERG to drive business impact everyday, Riojas shared the importance of elevating and developing young talent within the organization and across all functions of the organization.

Identifying, nurturing and promoting talent to prevent the gaps that are created when a Latina “star” transitions or leaves the company is crucial. During the third panel of the day, “Nurturing Future Leaders: Leading the Way thru Education, Military Service, and Professional Development,” attendees learned why creating a culture of success with a systematic approach to nurturing talent is essential to maintain a steady flow of Latina talent to the top. Moderated by Ivonne Valdes, VP WW Technology Services Indirect Sales, Enterprise Group, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, speakers included Mahogany Fox, National Infrastructure Coordinating Center, Department of Homeland Security; Ivette Perez-Franco, VP of HR Consumer Supply Chain, Johnson & Johnson; Ramona Blake, Global Manager Diversity & Inclusion, United Technologies Corporation.

“Take advantage of every opportunity provided to you,” said Perez-Franco. “Whether it’s a leadership role or an individual or a contributor role, it’s really a platform to build your skills and abilities. Fill that tool box to strengthen the foundation that you need as you continue to progress in the organization.”

After an informative morning, with joy, Bard welcomed Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA32). “Congratulations to all the awardees, to me you are champions, are role models, and our future, possibly members of Congress,” said Congresswoman Napolitano. “We need your expertise in politics because you speak not only from the corporate world but also as a minority understand how, where, and where things need to be done. As you go back to corporate, mentor. Open the door for young women who have aspirations to become something other than someone who is in the background somewhere. You are the eyes, ears and the voice of our Latinas who need to be recognized, who need to be mentored, who need to be helped. Find a way, because they are out there. We need to have young bright women to step up to the plate. I applaud all the awardees, congratulations.”

Soon after, companies that are leading the way in nurturing Latina talent were recognized and named to the stage. This year, Comcast NBCUniversal celebrated for the second time in four years the recognition as the company of the year.

“It is a pleasure to be here. We appreciate these awards for the recognition that our company has,” said Maria G. Arias, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion, Comcast Corporation. “Every person who joins our company plays a vital role to ensure that we deliver our best product, services and programming. The sustainability of our business is our people, they are our future, so we work on our teams to build a better company for tomorrow. This work happens with our teams, but it starts at the top – who we appoint to our boards, who is in the C-suite, how we develop, train and retain our talent, the shows, TV, film, telenovelas and deportes, the decisions that impact who we partner with in the procurement space. We work with much intention in terms of our governance, workforce, supplier diversity, programming, accessibility, community investment and our minority entrepreneurs program. We champion diversity and inclusion because we know these efforts will limit our blind spots, limit our unconscious biases and compel a more complete understanding of our audiences and our customers. Our company’s vision and goal is to be to a model company for diversity and inclusion. We’ve come a long way but we know we have more to go. We are very proud to be company of the year for the second time in four years.”

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