Priscilla Guasso was born in the United States and is living between Miami and Chicago. She proudly shared her mom immigrated from Mexico to the US and has Mexican roots from her dad’s side as well. She has distinguished herself through her work and leadership in the HR industry and has disrupted the field positively by creating a powerful community “Latinas Rising Up in HR | Latinas Avanzando en Recursos Humanos”.
Priscilla started her professional journey in the hospitality industry and evolved into the HR career. She has an encouraging story, a lovely soul and is a servant leader with a beautiful purpose.
Her strength lies in building meaningful connections and being the pathway of visibility to Latinas in HR to grow and be recognized in this career. To start the interview, she opened her heart to tell us about her story, and the challenges she faced until she became the Founder and CEO of Latinas Rising Up in HR.
We would like to get to know you. Who is Priscilla? Who was she when she was younger? What did she dream about?
I was a very loving and smiley kid with family, but very uncertain of myself as I figured my place in the world. However, I always knew that there was something inside of me to do something great. It is a feeling that has never left me and continues to drive me to do the work that will leave a legacy I am proud of. In my younger years I was shy and didn’t know who I wanted to be or what my place in the world was. I found happiness in making lots of friends, meeting new people, and helping others.
In high school, I started to open up through my passion of singing, and this is what started to give me more confidence. I remember doing my first solo in 6th grade and thereafter joining the choir at school and at church. That is where I began to find my place in the world. As I approached high school I grew into a social butterfly, never landing in one group but always part of every club: music, volleyball, soccer, softball, Spanish, student council… I loved being with everyone. A dream that I had was after attending a conference (USHLI – United States Hispanic Leadership Institute) that changed my the course of my mind and dreams. I was inspired by a speaker who looked like me (dark hair, in a blue suit and curvy) that spoke and said, “being Latin@ is gift…you do not need a statistic and can achieve anything you put your mind to” and from that day on a seed was planted…to continue going after my dreams and maybe one day be able to inspire someone like she inspired me.
How did you start your professional journey in human resources?
I actually started working as an events assistant with Hyatt Hotels and learned so much! After working in this role for a year, I moved into finance for a few months to withstand the uncertain economic times, and following that temporary role I was offered a position as a manager in human resources focused on employee engagement. That is where I started my career in HR, focused on culture, over the next few years I moved into recruitment, benefits (managing plans of two hotels 4 unions), workers compensation and supported employee relations (investigations). After my 4 years in the hotel I was offered a position with the corporate diversity and inclusion team and had the opportunity to break into working for this global headquarters. I still remember the housekeepers sharing how proud they were to see someone like me, a Latina, moving up the ladder into those offices. One leader said to me “Priscilla, you have so much ahead of you, do not forget where you came from and those that supported your journey up.” Best advice that I hold tight to.
In this corporate role I traveled to Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, Brazil, and my small world opened up like a dream. What impressed me the most was learning about everyone’s story, from every country, every culture, and how the company could impact them…during this role we were way ahead of where DEI is today and focused on how to support women to move into leadership positions in the hotel industry.
How did you come to create this community and published book of “Latinas Rising Up in HR”?
A few years ago I moved to Miami because of an amazing opportunity to open over 45 hotels throughout Latin America. After being in this regional talent acquisition role for 4 years I was ready to grow in a more executive and strategic role…while getting back to my home of Chicago, Illinois. I moved into a Divisional Director of Human Resources role where I used many of my skills and experience. As my role evolved into focusing on employee relations investigations, I knew deep in my heart this was not what I wanted to do. After two and a half years I took time off working to focus on my health as we went through 3 miscarriages. In our society we don’t talk about this, but the stats show about 1 in 6 of adult’s worldwide experience infertility. With the amazing support of my husband, I used the following year to focus on me and made a conscious decision to pursue my passion project of one day creating a space for Latinas to come together through vulnerability, storytelling, and leaders…here is where “Latinas Rising Up in HR” was born.
How did the idea come up?
Being in diversity, equity and inclusion, it was my role and passion to focus on equity across all communities. As I moved up the corporate ladder, I saw less, and less Latinos and Latinas represented in the leadership roles across different companies and industries. When I left my job to take care of myself, I realized that I had the time, money, and passion to create something that not only excited me, but would allow me to execute on my vision to contribute a solution to the world and our community. I talked to an old friend (now our publisher, thank you Fig Factor Media!) and an old mentor who also encouraged my idea, and in October 2020 during the height of the pandemic we launched Volume 1 of Latinas Rising Up In HR. Only two years later we are a community of over 2,000 followers, we’ve issued 6 scholarships through proceeds of our book sales, created 2 podcast seasons, launched our signature leadership summit and published volume 2 of our book!
How did you pick those 20 wonderful women to contribute to your book of volume 1 and now volume 2?
Acting on a dream is never an easy task and I remember going through a really rough time when moving on this project. I wasn’t working, my husband had lost his job, we moved into my sister’s basement (concrete floors, no bathroom in our space, 1 window (lol), and it was there that I developed, executed and launched this idea. As I was staging my zoom background in that basement I remember thinking, “Wow! I am releasing my first book ever in my sister’s basement! No one will ever believe this.” Through the power of my network and LinkedIn, I found these 20 amazing Latina HR leaders. I had an application, shared with leaders I’ve had in my career, arranged interviews and did my own reference checks with the hope that I would find leaders that embodied traits that impacted my own leadership journey: vulnerability, honesty, trust, strength, resilient, heart, integrity and fun. I was looking for other Latinas who wanted to make an impact, had a servant leadership style and humble. This wasn’t going to be a book of women bragging, on the contrary, they gave me permission to peel back the onion and get to the core of their story and share the hard moments so we can all learn and grow from them.
You are a DEI specialist as well, tell us how this has evolved in the United States?
What is beautiful about the US is the diversity that is woven throughout our country. Yet we have a history that is not transparently discussed and has effected so many communities in many different ways. Equity, Inclusion and Belonging is the uphill battle that requires resilience in DEIB professionals due to unconscious biases we all have. Today I have focused on Latinas and am hopeful that corporations continue to partner with organizations like ours to change the future of leadership. According to the US Census Bureau, U.S. Hispanics make up 62.5 million our population and by 2060 almost 1 in 3 Americans will be Hispanic! In a Forbes study 75% of non-Hispanic supervisors are unaware of the Hispanic cultural values and childhood upbringing which influence the ways Latinos can think, act and perform. In a McKinsey study Latinas and Black women are less likely than women of other races and ethnicities to say their manager shows interest in their career development. If you’re a leader at your organization, I encourage you to read and learn more about all communities represented in the U.S. This is why action is needed and our community of Latinas Rising Up In HR is focused on doing this in our field.
What percentage of Latinas are in leadership positions?
The US Census Bureau shared that Hispanics make up 18% of the US population, yet when we look at Latina leadership an HACR study shares that Latinas only make up 1% of board of directors, 2% of executive positions, and 3% of management positions. The math doesn’t add up and much work to create equity not just in representation across leadership roles, but in pay equity and investing in our development.
What dreams do you have for Latinas in 5 years?
Seeing that 5 years is not much time, my dream is to see corporations transparently share their metrics of Latinas throughout each leadership level and transparently share pay. I would love to see Latinos and Latinas represent 18% of leadership and paid for the amazing skills we have. I’d love to see more Latinas lift and empower each other because when one wins, we all win. The dream I have for Latinas Rising Up In HR is to be the go-to community for Latinas and Allies in HR looking for a place that intersects what matters to us personally and professionally. My dream is to do more events virtually and in-person to bring greater visibility of the amazing HR leaders we have!