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Written by Adriana Phaneuf
on June 03, 2020

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The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility's (HACR) inaugural Latina Empow(h)er Summit™ was held on March 2-4, 2020, at the Four Seasons Westlake Village in Calif. This event brought together an exclusive group of nearly 50 Latina executives, who gathered for a unique opportunity to develop their leadership and managerial skills through a series of workshops and discussions. Attendees were also encouraged to recharge with wellness-focused activities provided by the California Health & Longevity Institute.

Microsoft served as host sponsor for this year’s event, as well as the Research Innovator sponsor for the related Empow(h)er™: Understanding Workplace Barriers for Latinas report. This program was also made possible with the support of our Gold Sponsor: UPS, Latina Champion Sponsor: Bank of America, and Silver Sponsors: The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Motor Company, and Prudential Financial.

The event kicked off with a reception and welcome dinner featuring remarks from Microsoft’s Director of Strategy, Innovation, and Partnerships - Global Diversity and Inclusion, Diana Navas-Rosette, followed by dinner and a Fireside chat with PG&E Corporation, Former President and CEO, Geisha Williams.  

Geisha Williams joined HACR President and CEO Cid Wilson and she spoke on how her upbringing helped her sharpen her leadership skills which resulted in her becoming the first Latina Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a $30 billion firm with 20,000 employees. Williams also explained the importance of finding mentors and sponsors who support and guide you throughout your career.

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On Day 2, our attendees participated in several board preparation sessions conducted by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) facilitated by Deltennium Group, Chairman and CEO, Gerald Czarnecki, together with Gates Business Consulting, Founder and CEO, Renee Hornbaker. Attendees learned the boardroom fundamentals and gained knowledge on leading practices for boardroom effectiveness in today's dynamic corporate governance environment. 

During lunch, attendees had the opportunity to hear from Digital Hands, Chief Operating Officer and Partner, Myrna Soto. Soto engaged in a lively discussion with HACR Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Lisette Garcia where they discussed her career journey, tips for advancement, and the how-tos of getting on a board. Soto provided insights to our audience of Latina executives on the importance of stretch assignments, distinguishing between mentors and sponsors, and the importance of developing yourself for future advancement and service.

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Later that day, attendees were treated to a session featuring the founder of the Latina Golfers Association, Azucena Maldonado, who was joined by Retail Management Institute, Advisory Board Member and former Sam’s Club Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Gisel Ruiz, and Digital Hands Chief Operating Officer and Partner, Myrna Soto, for a lively panel conversation on using golf for career advancement. The three discussed the opportunities that became available to them through the sport in addition to how golf became a way to invest in themselves. Attendees felt empowered by the opportunity of using golf as a tool for career development and advancement.

Our attendees had the unique opportunity to participate in a competition based off the hit Food Network show Chopped, where they must open a bag of mystery ingredients and create one meal using all the ingredients that were provided. Salads and appetizers were made by our attendees, and the judges included HACR President and CEO, Cid Wilson with HACR Executive Vice President and COO, Dr. Lisette Garcia together with the Wellness Kitchen team.  

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Day 3 started with a presentation of the research findings from the Empow(h)er™: Understanding Workplace Barriers for Latinas report featuring HACR Executive Vice President and COO, Dr. Lisette Garcia. Our attendees were the first to hear the findings, as Dr. Garcia shared an in-depth look at the experiences of Latinas in the workplace and made recommendations as to what Latinas can do to advance their careers in Corporate America. 

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Immediately following the research presentation, attendees heard from Microsoft, General Manager of Strategy and Business Services, Maria Alvarez and Bank of America, Senior Vice President, Fulfillment Enablement Executive, Jessica Kannya, who discussed their breakthrough formulas for leadership. Each woman shared her unique story and the key insights they have learned over the years with the hopes of inspiring others to overcome challenges and succeed. Both Latina executives provided valuable nuggets of career advice from which our attendees surely benefited.

The program closed with "The Incredible Power of Taking Risks" by Retail Management Institute, Advisory Board Member and former Sam’s Club Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Gisel Ruiz. Ruiz shared the importance of taking risks, and how her career catapulted once she started taking the opportunities that were offered to her. She shared with our audience the most important piece of advice she received - believe in yourself and you will see the rewards in your career.

The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility is thankful to everyone who participated in our very first Latina Empow(h)er Summit™, and to our sponsors who made the program possible. The Latina Empow(h)er Summit™ will return in 2021. Stay tuned for dates and additional information. Updates will be announced on www.hacr.org.

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