#EmbraceEquity Spotlight - Cristina Baena

In a world where leadership is often equated with a linear, well-defined path, Cristina Baena, the President of Employee Benefits & Partner at Crest Insurance Group, defies the norm. Her remarkable journey from a professional golfer to a successful businesswoman and community leader is a testament to her unwavering determination and passion for making a positive impact.

Cristina Baena's story is an extraordinary one. Hailing from Colombia, she arrived in the United States in 1997 to pursue her passion for golf, joining the University of Arizona's golf team, which went on to win the NCAA Women's Golf National Championship in 2000. Her tenacity and dedication not only made her a successful athlete but also laid the foundation for her future leadership roles.

After her golfing career, Cristina transitioned into the nonprofit and events sector, working for The Tucson Conquistadores. This phase allowed her to channel her passion for community involvement, supporting organizations such as the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, San Miguel High School, American Heart Association, The First Tee of Tucson, and Easter Seals Blake Foundation.

Cristina's commitment to her community was recognized when she was nominated as a "Remarkable mom" by Tu Nidito in 2022 and awarded the title of "Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year" by the NFP in 2023.

Cristina's journey from a golfer to a business leader provides valuable insights for young women aspiring to pursue leadership roles. She emphasizes the importance of knowing where you want to go but also advises against assuming a linear path to leadership. Opportunity often presents itself unexpectedly, and taking risks and being unafraid to venture into the unknown are key aspects of the journey. Cristina believes that sometimes you may need to take a step back to move forward and that building a strong foundation is essential for achieving your goals.

"People think the path to leadership is straight forward. Opportunity comes in unexpected ways. You have to take risk – don’t be afraid."

Her commitment to equity is evident in her leadership approach. Cristina emphasizes that we should hire based on skillset and attitude rather than experience, as many skills can be taught. Diversity, including bilingual talent, should be actively sought out. Embracing equity allows organizations to benefit from a wider range of perspectives and experiences, enabling them to better serve a diverse market.

As a mentor herself, Cristina has followed in the footsteps of the male mentors who guided her earlier in her career. She is determined to be a mentor for other women, understanding that women bring a different perspective to leadership. She recognizes the power of diverse viewpoints and the need for women to uplift and support each other in the professional world.

One of Cristina's greatest inspirations is her mother, a doctor in Colombia, who defied societal norms and became a pioneer in her field. Her mother's fearlessness and determination had a profound impact on Cristina, instilling in her the belief that women can achieve anything.

Cristina Baena's role at Crest Insurance Group is defined by three key aspects: creating impact, giving back to the community, and understanding various businesses and industries. She derives immense satisfaction from empowering her women colleagues, encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves. Her dedication to community involvement allows her to be a part of positive change, creating a ripple effect of goodwill. Understanding different businesses and industries allows her to truly become a part of her clients' environment, thus providing them with the best possible service.

Cristina Baena's leadership journey is an inspiring testament to the power of determination, diversity, and community engagement. Her advice to young women is a reminder that the path to leadership is not always straightforward, but with the right mindset and unwavering commitment, one can overcome challenges and achieve greatness. Cristina's story serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to the positive impact one individual can make on their community and beyond. Thank you, Cristina, for your inspiration and your commitment to #embraceequity!

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