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The 2022 AL DÍA Women of Merit. Photo: Harrison Brink/AL DÍA News.
The 2022 AL DÍA Women of Merit. Photo: Harrison Brink/AL DÍA News.

A celebration of diverse meritorious women in leadership

The 2022 AL DÍA Women of Merit shine a bright light on the incredible influence of women leaders all across the region.

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What would our society be if not for women? Truth is, we would not have a society. 

While March is the month reserved to celebrate the contributions of women in our society, the crucial role and influence of women should be acknowledged and praised year-round.

AL DÍA’s Women of Merit is an annual event to shine a light on diverse trailblazing women who are doing valuable and impactful work to help benefit their communities, and our society at-large.

This year, 14 total women were selected as the 2022 AL DÍA Women of Merit honorees. From corporate to education to entrepreneurship, nonprofit and public service these women are making tremendous contributions to every sector of our workforce and region. 

 

Lisette Agosto Cintrón, Raquel Arredondo, Ky’a Jackson, Varsovia Fernandez, Shannon Morales, Cynthia Figueroa, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, Cassie Haynes and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Marilyn Torres, Tiffany Tavarez, Damaris Alavarado-Rodriguez, Bonkosi Alyssa Horn and Morrisa Jenkins — those are the names of these powerful women of merit. 

While each woman has a unique and distinct backstory, each of them share the same drive, commitment and determination to make a positive impact in their communities, organizations, and our society. 

For Morales, she has been determined to create spaces for women such as herself to take more control over their careers. She has done that through her company, Tribaja, a recruitment platform for diverse tech and entrepreneurial talent. 

Two years after building the platform, she is able to see its successes. However, starting it was a struggle. 

“I quit my job in early 2020, and used my unemployment check and savings to start the business,” said Morales.

As a single mother of three daughters, she had to make ends meet for her and her family with limited means, but through a refined focus, she grew the company, opened doors for many and was named the 2022 AL DIA Emerging Leader.

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion for people of different races, genders, backgrounds and ethnicities, some organizations speak about it, while others ignore it.

However, if you ask Tavarez, the greatest impact occurs when the organization and those who are leading it both love it and live it.

“This award is a symbol, a marker that we are all headed in the right direction,” she said. 

This sentiment was shared by Arredondo.

“What I do can be simply summed up as a selfish act of wanting to be the person that I needed as a young woman navigating college, seeking mentors and sponsors in my career, and dealing with impostor syndrome,” she said. 

Now, she has the opportunity to bring a sense of belonging to those who may feel they don’t. 

As a Women of Merit, Figueroa hangs a famous quote in which she hangs in every office she’s ever worked in.

The quote reads: “Sin mujeres, no hay democracia,” which translates to “Without women, there is no democracy.” 

“Women, Latinas are critical voices to our future,” said Figueroa. “At this time, female leadership, inclusion and democracy are paramount.”

As entrepreneurs, Horn and Jenkins are looking to change the business landscape for women of color. 

With Freedom Apothecary, their official brand that sells health and wellness services to women who are often left out, have a space.

“We wanted to disrupt the narrative for women of color in the industry,” said Jenkins. 

Horn added, “I’m really a believer in building a business for women like us … everything that we do is really all about bringing people together and that feeling that you get for wanting to be in every space that you enter.” 

For Matlock-Turner, the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, the honor is both an occasion for her and every Woman of Merit to not only celebrate themselves, but each other. 

After being presented with the honor after 23 years in her role as President & CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition — the first woman every appointed to the role — she remains adamant about the fact that she is just getting started. 

As she stood there with appreciation and gratitude, she took the time to reflect on her own and the stories of all the diverse women leaders who were honored.

Matlock-Turner closed her speech by detailing the value of publications such as AL DÍA for telling the true stories of the communities that make up our region. 

"I think about the young women don't have a spotlight, who looked at multicultural media to understand themselves and what's possible," she said. "The Women of Merit awards are about these young women who will be inspired by our stories."

Overall, the 2022 AL DÍA Women of Merit set the stage for celebrating the indelible impact of the past, current and future generation of women leaders.

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