MCALLEN, RGV – The RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce partnered with Wal-Mart to host the inaugural Latina Leadership Conference on Thursday.

Women of all ages gathered at the Casa de Palmas Renaissance Hotel in McAllen, where they came to be empowered and inspired.

RGVHCC President and CEO Cynthia Sakulenzki welcomed participants and spoke about the chamber’s goal for the day’s event.

“The important message that we want to set across is that we want to raise other women; we want to help other women get to different and higher positions,” said Sakulenzki. “We want to make them community leaders and leaders within their business, within their families.”

Cynthia Sakulenzki

Speakers at the conference included local and state Latina leaders like Sarah Sagredo-Hammond of Atlas RGV and keynote speaker Jesica Duarte, vice president of format development for Wal-Mart. Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cardenas Flores, former president of the University of Texas Pan American, was the mistress of ceremonies for the event.

Anette Soto, state chair Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, started things off by talking about women and leadership in the current climate. The discussion moved to social and business etiquette, led by Dr. Barbara Baggerly-Hinojosa, CEO and founder of Leadership Empowerment Group, and Edna Posada, owner of Spa La Posada.

Cristina Solis-Wilson of the CM Institute of Leadership and Sagredo-Hammond tackled communications and networking. Christina Ramirez, regional human resources director of Wal-Mart, spoke about conflict resolution along with Baggerly-Hinojosa. Financial adviser Armondo Brennan – the only male speaker – and attorneys Sharon Almaguer and Deborah Cordova handled estate planning and retirement.

Of all the presentations, the topic of confidence and assertiveness seemed to garner the most enthusiastic responses from the audience. Local Wal-Mart store director Lilly Gonzalez and Lupita Guerra, the first Latina marketing manager for Wal-Mart in South Texas, shared their stories of humble beginnings to success. They were not shy about the adversity they faced, and they advised their fellow Latinas to keep moving forward even when they are feeling discouraged.

“This is a true product of ‘si se puede,’” said Guerra. “This is true and dear to my heart -women, empowerment, leadership, Latinas – and, first, we need to pay it forward.”