A top Filipina executive based in Las Vegas said she is humbled to be among the 2019 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World recognized for their work on femtorship or female mentoring.
Mona Lisa Jovellanos Kozel, Senior Vice President for Marketing Operations of timeshare company Take A Break Travel DBA Paramount Consultant, was honored with other leaders in the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World Award (Global FWN100).
Held at the Westin Paris-Vendôme in Paris, France on October 31, the San Francisco-based nonprofit The Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) handed the awards during the Awards Ceremony and Gala of the 16th Filipina Leadership Global Summit to Filipina global leaders for outstanding contributions in their respective professions, industries and communities.
Kozel has been holding her position for the past 16 years. As her organization’s marketing chief, she is in charge of over 400 employees — the majority of which are Filipinos — in 14 prime locations across the Las Vegas Strip. She is the only Filpina holding an executive position in the largest, male-dominated vacation ownership company in Las Vegas to date.
“This recognition from FWN100 is a humbling experience, a testament to the impact that Filipinos can make to communities and organizations around the world,” Kozel said.
“It is also a challenge for us to open more opportunities for women around the world. When a woman makes it to the top, I believe she must use her power to help other women as well and inspire them to be courageous and resilient,” she added.
For her contribution to the organization and for opening up opportunities to Filipinos in Las Vegas, Kozel received the Builder Category award, which is given to leaders who “have demonstrated exceptional organizational impact at a large workplace environment.”
Paying it forward
The Filipina executive first moved to the United States in 1988. Then only 22 years old, she started her journey in California with no work experience and no relatives to turn to, took jobs like babysitting and housekeeping to survive.
She moved to Las Vegas after a few months and opened a small buy and sell business offering clothes to Filipinas at several casinos. At the same time, she opened a clothing store at a swap meet.
“Those early years were difficult, there were just so many things happening but I knew I had to go on for everyone else in my family. I took on these obstacles and turned them into my motivation to succeed,” she recalled.
Her career break happened when she landed a job as an Off Premises Contact (OPC) for a small booth in the property Vegas World, now known as Stratosphere. It was her first job at the vacation ownership industry and from there, she quickly rose to the ranks and became a corporate trainer. She helped grow the company’s employment and opened massive job opportunities especially to the Filipino-American community in Nevada.
Reaching the pinnacle of her career comes with the responsibility of empowering others, especially women. And one of the most successful women she trained is Lisa Mitchell, who is now a site manager in one of Take A Break Travel’s most productive locations. A single mother of 21 with no prior experience when she started as an OPC, Kozel took her under her wing.
“Her passion is contagious and I am thankful to know her and so very thankful that she saw something in me. Mona took the time [and continues to take the time] to ensure that her knowledge is passed on and makes an impact in the lives of others,” Mitchell said.
A commitment to diversity and inclusion
So she can keep providing opportunities for Filipinos in her community, Kozel works with different organizations like the Las Vegas Filipino American Chamber of Commerce, where she serves as Vice President for Business Development.
A recent activity that she spearheaded as a leader of this organization was a community outreach program held from June to July 2019 at multiple venues inside and outside Las Vegas. This activity opened up opportunities to hundreds of immigrants, many of whom hail from the Filipino-American community supporting diverse families from all over the world.
To help more people in the Philippines through her professional work and civic engagement, the Las Vegas resident also sponsors different fundraisers, like the Giving Back and Giving Hope a Chance – an endeavor that supported 500 families in San Pablo, Laguna; 200 families in Calapan, Mindoro; 250 families in Cabagan, Isabela; and 30 women from Laura Vicuna, a home for victims of sexual abuse.
The Philippine Heritage Gala, meanwhile, raised funds to help transform slums into peaceful and productive communities as well as to combat hunger for Filipino children in public schools and on the streets.
For her contribution to the Filipino-American community, the National Federation of Filipino American Association, which is the United States’ largest national affiliation of Filipino-American institutions and organizations with four million Filipino-American members, gave Kozel the Community Builders Award.
She said that the accolade from the FWN is a reminder that empowering women in the workplace can deliver outstanding results. She also believes that while women tend to be nurturers, they also deserve an environment that would allow them to develop a meaningful career.
“My work for the past several years have taught me that diversity is, and will always be a source of an organization or a community’s strength. It is important that we bring together different voices and perspectives because that is how we can come up with more innovative solutions to the challenges we face,” the Filipina leader said.