‘Sin Pena:’ Hispanic and Latin American Leaders Issue a Fearless Charge to Speak Up


Sacúdete: “shake it off.” Sin pena, which can mean “no shame” and “don’t be shy.” These were just some of the calls to action issued during Thursday’s panel discussion with Hispanic and Latin American brand and marketing leaders in the latest event in nitronet’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion summit series.

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Previous summits have focused on leaders from the Black, LGBTQ+ and Asian American communities. The Hispanic and Latin American Summit was the first actively trilingual event in the series, with participants speaking in Spanish, English and Portuguese. The interchange of languages helped illustrate a theme that speakers returned to repeatedly: The Hispanic and Latino community is one that finds unity in its vibrant diversity.

As moderator Claudia Romo Edelman of We Are All Human pointed out, Hispanics and Latinos are among the fastest-growing populations in the United States and among the biggest consumer groups. “We represent 60% of growth for so many companies, but only 5% of marketing,” Edelman said. She later illustrated the community’s consumer power: “There’s more tortillas sold than bread, more salsa sold than ketchup.”

Here’s the full lineup of speakers at the event:

Rosi Ajjam, vp and GM at Estee Lauder’s Aramis and designer fragrance lab series
Susan Betts, director of brand strategy and management, Google
Jesus M. Gonzalez, president and co-founder, Sonus Agency
Xavier Gutierrez, president and CEO, Arizona Coyotes
Ivan Heredia, vp of brand engagement and revenue, The Walt Disney Company
Fernando Machado, global CMO, Burger King
Yvette Peña, vp of multicultural leadership, AARP
Andrea Perez, global vp and GM, Nike’s Jordan Brand
Fabiola Torres, CMO and senior vp of Energy, PepsiCo
Maria Winans, CMO, IBM Americas
Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and co-founder, Encantos
Magda Yrizarry, senior vp and chief diversity officer, Verizon

A central theme of Thursday’s summit was the gap between the immense consumer power of Latinos and the tiny marketing budgets that brands allot to reach them. Machado explained that from a business perspective, it’s about more than just a desire to be inclusive—it’s also about making money. “Each company needs to understand that it’s good business,” said Machado. “And they should do a little soul searching to understand if they don’t have [Latino] internal representation, why is that?”

Torres also drew a connection between the lack of Hispanic marketing leaders and a failure to reach the community. “Sometimes we hire agencies that tend to say they’re experts on Hispanics or Latinos, but it’s not true,” Torres said. “They tend to do the creative like it’s 20-30 years ago.” Brands that appear to be among the most inclusive, she noted, often do little outreach to Latino markets.

How does the industry make change and start speaking authentically to Hispanics and Latinos? Some speakers suggested that it requires not only hiring and promoting more Latino leaders, but it’s also vital that Hispanic professionals stay connected to their own roots. Edelman noted that in the past, many Latinos in business felt pressured to change their names in order to succeed. She referenced P&G’s Marc Pritchard, who has spoken at length about pressure he felt from his Mexican father to appear white.

After a brief introduction by nitronet’s senior director of brand community Heide Palermo, Edelman opened the discussion by inviting panelists to “tell us about your latinidad.” Speakers started off by sharing their roots, from New York-born Puerto Ricans and first generation Mexican Americans to Latin American expats from countries like Chile and Brazil, the panelists represented most of the Americas. Many described childhoods caught between worlds, speaking languages at home that differed from the ones used in school. Others described moving to the U.S. as adults, and learning what it means to become a minority in the process.

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