As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the theme of Latinxs Leading the Way, we’re spotlighting Latinx leaders at Constellation Brands who are inspiring real change within the company.
As our beer business continues to boom, driven in large part by our authentic Mexican brands, we connected with Marcela Iriarte, Vice President and Associate General Counsel Mexico - Beer Division.
Read about her journey to advance DE&I and how her deep roots in both Mexico and the U.S. inspire her values.
How did you come to Constellation Brands; can you tell us a little about your back story?
I began my professional life in a corporate law firm in Mexico City. Next came PepsiCo, where I rose to Head Legal Counsel for their main business in Mexico, Sabritas.
After nine years, I became an independent legal consultant, which allowed me to keep my career moving forward while caring for my young daughter.
In 2015, I received a call from Constellation Brands. While I was very interested in the new opportunity, my main priority was raising my then five-year-old daughter – which I conveyed during interviews in Mexico and then Chicago. Fortunately, Constellation valued my talent, hired me, and has proved to be the inclusive company I was seeking.
What does your role entail at Constellation?
I am the attorney in charge of all legal considerations for day-to-day operations of our breweries in Mexico – that is my main job.
I am also the Champion for the DE&I Committee in Mexico for Beer Operations, along with a talented and diverse team – that is my passion!
What are some of the ways you are involved in advancing Constellation’s DE&I commitments in Mexico?
The DE&I journey has been an interesting one for us in Mexico. Constellation Brands has been in Mexico for around eight years, though our breweries have been operating for decades. When I joined, I observed that the status quo varied a lot across our different sites.
My first task was to raise my voice and do something to recruit and empower more female talent. I joined what was then called the Women’s Leadership Network, which expanded to include managers at all levels alongside us few senior executives and after that came the Women´s Leadership Development Program. From that group, we created what would become the global business resource group (BRG) called WISE.
I also co-founded a D&I Committee two years ago that developed a culture-connecting team to represent all operational sites. No one really had a definition for “Diversity and Inclusion,” so we went back to basics and developed a common framework to give each employee the same foundation for growth and understanding.
We coached our employees with a course titled “Respect: Basis for Success” and additional awareness sessions. That helped us start speaking the same language and identifying real needs.
One of our first successes was getting a maternity leave policy implemented. Now, we have gone beyond that to also include paternity leave, which was a struggle against traditional mindsets around familial roles, caregiving and providing for your family.
We are still modelling this agenda. While we align with the corporate strategy and core commitments, we also know that the culture in Mexico is different, so we have specific and strategic priorities that fall into three pillars: awareness, education and accountability following the DE&I Corporate Strategy.
Awareness includes things like industry benchmarking and internal campaigns, including around our BRGs. Education involves improving our DE&I content in areas like onboarding and our employee manual, as well as bidirectional mentoring. And accountability is integral to empowering our BRGs and socializing our learnings, including at external events and forums.
We are striving to develop a best in-class diverse work force that reflects our consumers and communities we serve, and an inclusive culture for underrepresented groups, including women, the disabled and employees of all ages.
How does it feel to work for a global company whose authentic beer brands are growing so strongly outside of Mexico?
I am very proud to work for this global company with iconic brands that have shown that the sky is the limit. We continue to break records, especially considering that our experienced consumers have very developed tastes – and they still prefer our Mexican brands to domestic brands.
What is your proudest personal or professional accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment is never giving up on my journey as a female attorney. I’m proving to my daughter that women can go as far as they dream to go, through hard work, being true to themselves and always daring to speak up.
What is a value from your upbringing that you carry through to today?
One of the main values that I carry close to me at work is being true to myself. Integrity, loyalty and hard work are near to my heart.
As we honor Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., can you share one of your favorite Mexican traditions?
I think that I don´t have a favorite Mexican tradition. Being Mexican you learn to love and embrace your culture and cherish and enjoy all our traditions as the year evolves.
I have an interesting viewpoint since my mother was born in the U.S. to Mexican parents. She was raised biculturally until she returned to Mexico. During her upbringing in Arizona, everything outside the house was American; everything was in English. Inside, everything was in Spanish and everything was very Mexican. I was raised with both sets of cultural festivities; my mother loves celebrating all our traditions, mainly as the best excuse to bring the family together.
Today, I am lucky enough to have all my family in the same city, so any excuse to get together will do!