By Gloria Romano-Barrera.

The 19th anniversary of the LATINA Style 50 Awards Ceremony and 13th annual Diversity Leaders Conference gathered the top 50 corporations for Latinas to work for in the U.S. in the nation’s capital on February 8th and 9th.


Recognizing companies that embrace Latina achievement, the unique program welcomed executives, members of Congress and leaders from across the country during a leadership reception held on the evening of February 8th. Guests were inspired by remarks provided by Carly Sanchez, Executive Vice President and Head of Talent Acquisition, Wells Fargo; Peter Hernandez, Senior Vice President & Division Controller for Wyndham Vacation Ownership at Wyndham Worldwide and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto who received the Trailblazer Award for her work and commitment to the country.

The morning of February 9th commenced with a warm welcome by Mistress of Ceremonies Claudia Curiel, Reporter, News Anchor, Telemundo Washington, D.C. Highlighting the eventful morning was the announcement of the top 2016 LATINA Style Corporate Executives of the Year. The winner for 2016 was Rosie Kitson, Vice President, Channel Marketing, AT&T. “Thank you very much to LATINA Style for this tremendous honor,” she expressed with gratitude.

Following the LEY winner, the Employee Resource Group for 2016 was announced. Manuel Diaz, President of the Hispanic Organization of Leadership and Achievement (HOLA) at Johnson & Johnson received the award on behalf of the company’s ERG. “On behalf of the 1000 members that we have at Johnson & Johnson, Hispanic organization for Leadership and Achievement, we are very proud of our accomplishments,” he expressed to the audience. “Representing Hispanic national leaders within J&J has enabled us to provide the company with really valuable business insights and forge partnerships with our customers and advocacy organizations that have actually delivered growth for Johnson & Johnson. We are very proud and honored to be amongst all the other groups and all the work each one of those do for your organization.”

Celebrating Latina achievement is at the core mission of LATINA Style and on this day attendees gained insights from corporate executives during the first panel titled LATINA Style Corporate Executives of the Year. Moderating the panel was Rosie Kitson, Vice President, Channel Marketing, AT&T. Speakers included: Vickie Chinchar, Vice President, Global Shared Services N.A., Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Marie Robert, Senior Director, Supply Chain Contracts, United Technologies Corporation; Michelle Freyre, President, U.S. Beauty, Johnson & Johnson; Maria B. Winans, Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Watson Marketing, Commerce & Supply Chain, IBM; and Laura Hernandez-Romine, Director, Global Media, Branded Entertainment & Diversity Marketing, General Motors Company.

Celebrating Latinas and supporting each other was a common theme among the panelists. Kitson’s advice is to not only look at top talent when working on assignments, “look deeper.”

For Winans, who has been with IBM for 25 years, it is important to make an environment that is fun. Particularly when trying to engage today’s youth. “They want to feel important and they want to have some freedom,” she shared. “They want to be in an environment they want to have fun. Celebrate along with them. You have to make the environment welcoming, energizing so that they want to stay. That is very important particularly as you bring millennials to the workforce.”

ERGs develop a connection between the company and the employees by empowering, nurturing and retaining talent. The second panel of the day titled, Employee Resource Group of the Year/Empowering the ERGs highlighted ways ERGs prove to be essential in both business impact and relationship building with the consumer.

Moderated by Manuel Diaz, Associate Director, R&D Quality and Compliance Operations at Janssen – Johnson & Johnson and ERG President of (HOLA) Hispanic Organization of Leadership and Achievement, speakers included Ana F. Arguello, Hispanic Latino Associate Resource Group, Wal-Mart Stores Inc; Ben Alvarado, president, Latin Connection, Wells Fargo & Company; Adilka I. White, Chair, Hispanic & Latino BRG, Crecer, UPS; and Dawn Cordero, VP operations, Hispanic/Latino Employee Association, HACEMOS, AT&T.

For Arguello, diversity is feeling safe to tell your story and to be proud of who you are. “Make sure you have a strong foundation because as long as you have that it doesn’t matter if you are Latino or you are from somewhere else,” she shared. “If you are going to be true to who you are, you are going to be able to mobilize people. This is our time, we not only have the responsibility, we have the obligation to be catalyst for change in this America.”

Alvarado, a second generation Mexican-American has been with Wells Fargo for 26 years. Starting as a teller at the company, Alvarado also encourages everyone to join their company ERG. “ERG’s help people see things from different lenses and be much more inclusive and have different thought,” he shared. “It really creates a dynamic energy with the group that I think it’s a huge benefit for anyone who joins.”

The third panel of the day, Chief Diversity Officers Roundtable: Diversity as a Business Imperative brought together a group of diversity officers to discuss strategies to develop a workplace that understands diverse cultures. Moderated by Nellie Borrero, Managing Director of Global Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture, speakers included Mia Hairston, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Nationwide; Cynthia H. Bowman, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Bank of America; Kenneth D. Barrett, Chief Diversity Officer, General Motors Company and Elizabeth Nieto, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, MetLife.

Hairston who has been at Nationwide for 25 years, believes having multiple experiences allows her to have an open dialogue with leaders. “What companies can do is begin to ask yourself ‘is this a company where everyone can succeed?’” she shared. “The first thing is to assess your current state.”

Nieto, who has been at MetLife for five years strongly encouraged the audience to find their voice. “We are not one thing, we are many things,” she stated. “When we put people in one category we are not taking advantage of all the contributions they can make.”

Having a strong and effective corporate board can be a tremendous asset to any company or organization. The fourth and final panel of the day titled Corporate Board Members: Preparing Yourself to Serve brought together accomplished experts who sit on boards of directors offering advice and different perspectives. Moderated by Robert E. Bard, President & CEO, LATINA Style, Inc., speakers included Marta Tienda, Maurice P. During ’22 Professor in Demographic Studies, Princeton University, Board of Directors: Teachers Insurance Annuity Association (TIAA), the Jacobs Foundation of Switzerland, the Sloan Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau; Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow, CEO of the Oliver Group Inc. Board of Directors: Vice Chair, Latino Corporate Directors Association, Chair, HR and Compensation Committee, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Inc., Chair, Governance Committee, Hispanic Communications Network, Board member, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chair Emeritus, National Education Association Foundation; Lili Gil Valletta, Cofounder and CEO, CIEN+. Creator of Dreamers Ventures Board of Directors: the National Board of Directors YMCA USA and Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board and Esther Aguilera, President & CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association.

“We do so many things to empower and nurture our families,” shared Oliver-Farrow. “We do this on businesses and on corporate boards too. When we are at the table, there is diversity of thought and you challenge their thinking.”

After the morning workshops, attendees were invited to the luncheon and were once again greeted by Mistress of Ceremonies Claudia Curiel.

Introduction remarks were provided by Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President, Multicultural Affairs, Marriott International Inc. Keynote remarks were provided by Brenda Durham, Senior Vice President & Regional General Counsel, Marriott International Inc.

“I feel a very deep commitment to the Latinas at my company,” expressed Durham. “It is very important to me that I am associated with a company that has that same drive and passion and that is very true about Marriott International. Nineteen years ago, Marriott International gave me an opportunity and they specifically designated the position that I applied to for a Latina. Now after many years later, I’ve had many successes. That success goes back to my mother, my abuela and it goes back to my bisabuela. This company is very dear to me. Because for some reason my mother feels like that validates what she brought here to this country and was able to instill in her children.”

Focused and fierce about inclusion, Durham talked about the importance of mentorship. “I’ve had the benefit of knowing that if you have the right encouragement and the right mentorship, that will sometimes spur you beyond a dream you might have had that you may have had some doubt about and I’ve experience that sometime again at my company and when I see other women and Latinas it really thrills me when I see them take the risk.”

“I want to thank you for recognizing Marriott,” she expressed. “Marriott truly understands that with the global footprint it has, it bares the responsibility to open its doors to everyone and that everyone at Marriott deserves to be respected, valued, that they deserve to be given opportunities to succeed. Thank you for your trust to the company, this is truly an honor to us.”