"I’m usually the only Latina in the room"
Reaching the top is nothing without reaching back to help those behind you according to Yasseline Díaz. From her early college career to the present, Díaz felt that her mission has always been to help those who need it most. Though she is far from her original goal of being a Physical Therapist, Díaz has managed to transform lives on a daily basis. From her charity work to her position in the Community Affairs department of Independence Blue Cross, she still manages to impact neighborhoods throughout the city.
And while Díaz's service to those around her is clear, she believes it is not without the help and support of the Latinas in her life. Proving that strong women create even stronger women, Díaz highlighted how her mother and sister have served as her backbone throughout her life and career. It is with their guidance and support that she has been able to reach her position today and stand as an example to the young girls who are on the rise behind her.
Get to know the story behind Yasseline Díaz in an exclusive interview below.
Tell us about your current career, how did you get there?
“This moment in your career comes when you start thinking you gave all that you had to give and it’s time to move on and try something new,” said Díaz. Previously working at the Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America in Philadelphia, Díaz discovered a position with Independence Blue Cross through a friend. Believing it would be the perfect fit, Díaz jumped at the chance to take a bold step forward in her career and join the team, “Since I came from the “non-profit” sector, I thought it could be a good change.”
What's the most rewarding part of your career for you?
“In the end, it’s about knowing if what you’re doing is making a change somewhere. It may not be a physically perceivable impact, but you know that, whether it’s a collection or a beautification project, there’s always an opportunity for a change, and you’re part of it,” said Díaz.
What was your dream job as a kid and why?
“I wanted to physically help people from the medical field. But I quickly knew in my first year of college that it wasn’t what I wanted. I can’t imagine myself doing that right now,” she shared. “It’s very rewarding and I’m happy for the path I chose.”
What woman currently inspires you and why?
She specifically highlighted Lorina Marshall-Blake, Vice President of Community Affairs and her former manager Sheila Hes who is now Philadelphia’s City Representative. “They’re amazing women. I don’t know how they do it – or where they get the time to do what they do - but they’re very dear and recognized in the community,” said Diaz. “They’re really good people.”
Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
“Definitely, my mother. She taught me one of the best lessons of all and that is – to just be me. My little sister is also an influential woman to me. Both have inspired me because they’ve always been there. They’ve always supported me.”
Who were your mentors?
“Lorina and Sheila. […] I see Lorina every day. I see what she does and what she means to people. Even after Sheila went to work for the city, I still see her on social media and we text almost daily. Being able to continue what she and others began with the Blue Crew, our corporate volunteer program, and build upon relationships with the community is wonderful. They’ve been great mentors and have left a huge impression on me.”
What does it meant to you to be a Latina in your industry? Do you find yourself to be the only woman or Latina in the room often?
“I’m usually the only Latina in the room. I think I’ve never given too much importance to it because there are usually so many women in the room,” said Diaz. “Being Latina in this sector and doing my job is just a small sample of the people that’s out there. There’s at least another one like me. There’s a couple like me. There are people out there doing good things and I use that example in front of the community. This way, I can tell girls in North Philly ‘you can do it,’ you don’t have to follow a different path. You can do it because there’s people exactly like us doing a good job.”
What career advice would you give to younger women?
“I’d say to them: try to build relationships. […] People will realize that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re doing, in who they are and where they come from. I insist: you should build a relationship and be sure that you encourage them – that you’re not only going to meet someone and then you won’t talk or discuss anything with them,” said Díaz. But when building relationships, especially while rising to the top, Diaz advises, “Always be humble. Always be willing to smile and greet someone.”
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
“There’s always been this misconception that a woman can’t be a leader because at a certain point she’ll want to leave her career behind and raise a family, and she won’t ever come back to work. But I think women do this constantly. They get married and have babies. And when they come back to work they’re still leaders,” she stated.
What can be done to increase the number of Latinas in your industry?
“It is as simple as going out and meeting people,” said Díaz. A big proponent for the value of networking, Diaz shared that education and career fairs are easy way to make contact with larger names in the industry.
Any secret talent or hobby? Community work?
“When we renovated their library last year [the students at the Sheppard School] were so excited to sit, and read, and learn,” Díaz said of her time as a reading coach with the “Blue Crew,” the corporate volunteer program with Independence Blue Cross. “I don’t recall ever being that excited over a library when I was their age, so to see them like that was beautiful.”
Learn more about the Women at the Top Awards here.