By Gloria Romano-Barrera.
On Thursday, September 8th, LATINA Style proudly honored Latinas serving in the Armed Forces at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, VA. Addressing the needs of Latina professionals, civic leaders, and members of the Armed Services has been the mission of LATINA Style since 2004 and today’s mission is no different.
Gathering a distinguished group of national and local leaders, partners, sponsors, and honorees from throughout the country, LATINA Style kicked-off one of the most coveted programs for Latinas in the U.S. with a one-of-a-kind leadership reception at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, VA, on the evening of September 7th.
On the morning of September 8th, Mistress of Ceremonies Sulema Salazar, Telemundo Washington News Anchor and Robert E. Bard, president & CEO, LATINA Style, welcomed host sponsor Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President, Multi-Cultural Affairs, Marriott International Inc. to the stage.
“I want to first of all say thank you. This is so important because this is the America I want to live in, and the America we need to live in,” said Gandhi, who comes from an immigrant family. “It is really beautiful to see when immigrants take the uniform and put it on and recognize that the flag that we see is more than just colors on the fabric. It means something. That’s what this room means to me. So it is really important to recognize your contributions and realize we still need those contributions.”
The Symposium could not be made possible without the support of another great sponsor, AT&T. During the morning, Susie Santana, Assistant Vice President Federal Relations, AT&T, spoke on behalf of the company. “It’s great to be in this room full of powerful and talented Latina leaders and supporters,” she stated. “At AT&T we share core values of empowering employees in our communities through career mentorship and education. AT&T’s long commitment is in their DNA and we are proud of our best in class programs, workplace inclusion, and supplier diversity.”
According to Santana, the proof is in the results as AT&T employs 84,000 women across the country, 36 percent of women are managers, more than 8,200 women work in STEM. At AT&T more than 100 women inventors have earned patents for the innovations and inventions.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 27) provided Honorary Symposium remarks: “Each one of you is a testament to girls and young women, that they too can make a difference and they can reach new heights,” she stated. “The symposium was founded to be one of the largest gathering celebrating Latina leaders, Congratulations to all the awardees.”
Supporters such as Prudential also took pride in joining the celebration of Latina success. Guest remarks were provided by Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Vice-President and Chief Diversity Officer. “First of all, I am really proud to bring greetings from our chairman and CEO because we are proud supporters of active service members and veterans,” she stated. “We come to you as a company and as human beings who genuinely care about all of you, we support you. We do everything we can to help you as you continue in active duty and as you leave active duty.”
The first panel of the day, titled Learning Strategies for Success, touched on the vast experiences of Latinas in the workplace. Attendees learned how successful Latinas have made headway through the challenges of corporate America.
Moderated by Elia Quintana, Director, Corporate Development, HACR, panelists included Violeta Seidell, Vice President, Program Management, Marriott; Daniele Johnson, AVP, Talent Acquisition, Nationwide; Yhanira Adan, Assistant Vice President of Process Excellence, (USAA), and Lenora Green, Executive Director, Educational Testing Service (ETS).
“It is an honor to help my team select the most talented people to join our 34,000 associates,” stated Johnson as she elaborated on characteristics in leadership success. “The ability to build relationships and carry those on and being able to connect with anybody despite how different you are is a characteristic to success.”
Adan believes her road map to success starts at home. Her advice is to have a plan, be able to ask for help, and approach people for jobs, “Have the courage, believe in yourself, know that by you taking those opportunities you are able to serve as role models for others. Take the risks.”
The second panel of the day, Workforce of the future…what to expect and how to be prepare, brought together Latinas from the federal government, the intelligence community and the military. With a focus on learning where the jobs and careers of the future are, panelists shared advice on how to prepare to take advantage of professional opportunities. Moderated by Patricia Trujillo, Former States Legislator, State of New Mexico (Civ), panelists included Gabrielle Middleton, Director, Open Source Center, CIA; Carmen Cantor, Director of the Office of Civil Service, Human Resource Management, Department of State; Marella I. Ruelas, Supervisor Special Agent, FBI.
After a networking break, attendees moved forward to join the Military-to-Civilian Transition…Matching Military Skills & Needs panel. The third panel of the day focused on the integration of returning military into the civilian workplace. A major initiative for LATINA Style and its partners, the cultural gap that exists between military and corporate entities continues to be a major challenge to veterans.
Moderated by Jose Velazquez, Deputy Administrator for Operations and Regional Management, Department of Labor, panelists included Johanna Martinez, Military Talent Attraction Manager, AT&T; Jim Beamesderfer, Vice President, Veterans Initiatives, Prudential Financial Inc.; Michelle Caraballo, Public Affairs and Government Relations, Walmart, and Veronica Villegas, Global Recruiter Talent Acquisition Team, Verizon.
The following panel of the day titled Leadership and Diversity through the Eyes of General Officers brought together five Latinas in the military. Each addressed the work being accomplished to grow Latinas in the military. Offering guidance and advice on leadership and self-development, they provided advice on ways to maximize leadership skills.
Moderated by Lt. Col. Lina Downing, Comptroller, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, U.S. Marine Corps, panelists included VADM Sandra Stosz, Deputy Commandant Mission Support, U.S. Coast Guard; MG Camille M. Nichols, Director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of SECDEF, U.S. Army; Maj. Gen. Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, Asst. Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence, U.S. Air Force, and Capt. Angela Katson, Deputy Director Fields Support Activity, Director of Navy Staff, U.S. Navy.
After a full day of resourceful workshops, the Distinguished Military Awards Luncheon—a unique gathering and an integral part of Hispanic Heritage month activities held in the nation’s capital—honored the accomplishments of women serving in the Armed Forces. Sixteen awardees were honored for their service to our country, leadership, accomplishments, and commitment to building a strong community.
Mistress of Ceremonies, LCDR Katiuska Pabon-Beauchamp, U.S. Coast Guard welcomed the audience with enthusiasm. Addressing the audience were Mr. Clarance “CJ” Johnson, Department of Defense, Director of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity; LCDR Raymond Caro, United States Coast Guard; the Honorable Grace F. Napolitano and the Honorable Gabriel O. Camarillo, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Manpower and Reserve Affairs (M&RA) who received the President Achievement Award.
After such inspiring words provided by each distinguished guests, the LATINA Style luncheon continued by presenting the Distinguished Military Service Awards highlighting the contribution of Latinas in the military service. Congratulations to the 2016 awardees.
Sergeant Major Linda Kessinger, United States Army; Staff Sergeant Christina Mota-Aguiar, United States Marine Corps; Maritza Carillo (Civ), United States Marine Corps; Petty Officer Second Class Evelin-Yanet R. Garcia, United States Navy; Ms. Belia Cook (Civ), United States Navy; First Lieutenant Karen Rubin-Santos, United States Air Force; Master Sergeant Sonora Vasquez, United States Air Force; Ms. Rosa Marlin, United States Air Force; Lieutenant Katrian Hernandez, United States Coast Guard; Ms. Lushens K. McNamara (Civ), United States Coast Guard; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darysabel Lopez, United States Army National Guard; Ms. Dania Aponte (Civ), United States Army National Guard; Cadet Gabriela Barrera-Gutierrez; Midshipmen First Class Isabel Krause; Cadet First Class Leslie Perez; Cadet First Class Ruth T. Salvatori.
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