Rosevelie Márquez Morales: Meeting People Where They Are to Help Them Progress and Succeed

The 05 Most Influential Women In D&I To Follow, 2024

Rosevelie Márquez Morales is the Chief Diversity Officer – Americas at Hogan Lovells, influencing all aspects of its DEI policy and practice. She guides the firm on its DEI strategic plans and ensures the implementation of their initiative. In less than a decade, she has carved out a special place for herself in this space through her positive leadership.

In June 2023, Rosevelie was honored by LatinoJustice PRLDEF as a Latina Trailblazer for the work she has been doing in the DEI space. She considers it a great moment, as her peers, colleagues, daughter, mother, niece, and sisters were there to see her getting honored by the civil rights organization she has always admired.

The thought of “creating a path for the future” for her daughters keeps Rosevelie focused and motivated. However, her advocacy work started when she herself was a teenager. Inspired by the work of Dr. Antonia Pantoja, founder of ASPIRA of New York, a Puerto Rican/Latino youth leadership non-profit that Rosevelie was once a student of. Today, she now serves as Chair of Board, and Rosevelie’s work stems from her passion for her community. Dr. Pantoja said, “You cannot live a lukewarm life, you have to live a life with passion.” Those word have always resonated with Rosevelie because she recognized early that there is an abundance of talent in communities of color and other marginalized communities, yet they disproportionally lack access to information, opportunity or even visibility. “These are system failures, not a reflection of the people,” said Rosevelie. “I believe that education on both sides of the system is fundamental to bridging those gaps.”

From Practicing Law to DEI

A first-generation graduate, Rosevelie left her role as a Partner and took a plunge into DEI in 2015. Even before she stepped into the DEI space, Rosevelie, by nature, did a lot of things that were a part of it. “My journey to DEI is very personal, I identify as Puerto Rican, Latina, Afro-Latina, as a Women of Color, who grew up in a low socio-economic neighborhood, and despite society’s expectations, I went on to become a first-generation college and law graduate. My first few years practicing law, I was the only Latina at my law firm. All of these experiences inherently formed who I am and how I view the challenges and needs of diverse individuals.  While I come from a large family of independent women, I struggled with the fact that I was not expected to succeed and people have been surprised by some, if not, all of my accomplishments. It took me a while to move beyond society’s expectations to fully embrace my identity as a strength.”

A young Rosevelie, however, had not thought of DEI as a career path. She went to a law school, thinking of becoming a litigator. “And I followed the path that had been set forth by the law school on how to become a litigator,” Rosevelie says. After she graduated from law school, she joined Harris beach, where she went on to become one of the youngest partners as well as the first Latina and woman of color partner.

Three years into practicing law, she felt that something was missing even though she was doing good work. She realized that she lacked purpose and was missing her community. At the time, she was the only Latina lawyer, as well as the only woman of color lawyer, at the law firm. “I was missing that sense of community and people who resembled me and had similar experiences,” Rosevelie says.

That realization made her look for Puerto Rican lawyers and organizations in New York City. She came across the Puerto Rican Bar Association. She called its then President and said, “I’m a young lawyer in a big law firm in New York City. I’m looking to connect with the division for young lawyers.” He informed her that there was no young lawyer division but as Rosevelie presented a new idea, they readily accepted and started one.

Rosevelie was a part of her law school’s Latino Law Student Association. She called a few friends who were part of the organization and talked to them about starting the young lawyer division of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. Initially, Rosevelie saw it as a platform to connect with her community. She then began to notice that everybody had questions about navigating workspaces.

They were hesitant to ask these questions in their firms because they did not want to be perceived as lacking knowledge or unable to do the job. So, they started as a forum to ask questions and evolved into substance skills courses on how to prep for a deposition, interviewing a witness, and eventually developed formal mentoring opportunities for students, young and experienced Latino lawyers.

Rosevelie began to do work that she thought law students could benefit from, and because of that, she became engaged with New York Bar Association and was asked to co-chair their Diversity Committee. Together, they did a series of similar development programs for all diverse lawyers. They included answers to questions that even Rosevelie wanted to ask in law school, but she had no one to go to. “I wanted to make the answers available, and that is what DEI started to look like for me,” Rosevelie says. “I continued to do that work as I continued to progress in my career.”

Rosevelie eventually became the President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association – one of the youngest presidents in their history. She later because the first President of the Sonia and Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program which places high school, college and law students from underserved neighborhoods in state and federal judicial internships.

Transitioning to a Career in DEI

Rosevelie was stuck at the Chicago airport with a client for six hours due to a snowstorm. She recalls that they had dinner and talked a lot about DEI. “He saw the passion that I had for it,” she adds. “That was Friday, and on Monday, he calls me and says, ‘I know you’re practicing, but there is a DEI role that I think you should consider’.”

Rosevelie was a partner at a law firm in New York City – to be a partner is the pinnacle of success for any lawyer. She thought it would be “insane” of her to give that position up. But she still went to the firm to listen to what they had to say. “I went in once and I went in twice. I think I had over ten interviews,” Rosevelie says. A month later, she received an offer from it. She, however, was not ready for that. And she was also not sure what she wanted to do.

The offer made Rosevelie reevaluate what she wanted to do with her career. She went to law school because she wanted to be an advocate. “But, when I think about my career and everything I had done, even going back to high school, I was always drawn to advocacy programs,” Rosevelie says. “I was doing advocacy work for my family, community, and other people.” She was drawn to advocacy because she felt that the talent in her community was undervalued and not visible.

In her high school, 90 percent of the students identified as Blacks. As a Puerto Rican Afro-Latina, Rosevelie felt that she was “thrown into” a very culturally diverse neighborhood. “We looked the same. We had similar yet distinct experiences,” Rosevelie remembers. “But what I picked up the most is that we were expected to succeed at certain levels.”

Rosevelie was put into a life science program. It was for students who were likely to go to medical school, and, at the time, she was interested in medicine. Four years later, she enrolled in Barnard College, a women’s college, on a four-year scholarship.

A majority of the students in the college were white women. Beyond race, a multitude of differences existed between Rosevelie and her classmates that made it difficult to be feel included or understood. “The greatest challenge for me, at the time, was navigating the socio-economic differences,” Rosevelie points out. It took her a while to fully be herself and embrace the new environment in Barnard.

Rosevelie’s experiences played a pivotal role in her decision to transition to DEI. She joined

Sidley Austin as East Coast Diversity Director in 2015. In 2020 she was offered the opportunity to join Hogan Lovells as Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Americas and in 2023 was elevated to Chief Diversity Officer – Americas.

About Hogan Lovells and its DEI Approach 

Hogan Lovells works together with clients to solve the toughest legal issues in major industry sectors and commercial centers around the world. Whether expanding into new markets, considering capital from new sources, or dealing with increasingly complex regulation or disputes, Hogan Lovells’ collaborative, concise and practical problem-solving approach helps clients to stay on top of their risks, opportunities, and disruption. With market perspective built on experience in cross-border and emerging economies, 2,700 lawyers on six continents deliver clear and practical legal solutions aligned with business strategy to mitigate risk and make the most of opportunities. The firm’s industry sector approach combined with major strengths in corporate and finance, and dispute resolution, alongside world-class capabilities in areas such as global regulatory, means that the firm can seamlessly advise clients on the full spectrum of legal issues, on a global scale.

Hogan Lovells is proactive in all the services it provides. “It prides itself on being innovative, relatable, and practical in terms of implementation of what needs to be done,” Rosevelie says.

At the firm, there is also a constant assessment of potential risks that exist for its clients in different spaces. “A part of that means being a leader in these markets,” Rosevelie points out. “When we think about DEI, one of the goals is to be a market leader.” She explains that they want to be a market leader because they want to set the trend and be ahead of the issue and not just react to everything that is happening.

When Rosevelie joined Hogan Lovells, a few months after the murder of George Floyd, in 2020, organizations were, for the first time, issuing statements about commitments. They also started to look at communities closely. Rosevelie says that Hogan Lovells, too, began to look at communities and understand that what was happening in them could impact the workplace and lives of everybody who works there. The firm also initiated the process to determine what they need to do and how to approach DEI, making it much broader than just having a few initiatives internally. Now, Hogan Lovells has a successful DEI strategy, built on five pillars: accountability, processes, culture, recruitment, and retention, and clients.

In September 2023 the firm held Allverse, a gathering of underrepresented lawyers, clients and leaders to discuss trending DEI issues impacting the legal profession. This year’s theme was, Uniting changemakers for collective action, and centered around empowering individuals to become changemakers in their communities. During the conference, they explored the various ways they could channel their influence to make a difference, whether through small, everydays actions or leveraging their individual positions of power and privilege. Together, they dove into the importance of intentionality and explored strategies for optimizing their personal agency to cultivate a future rooted in equity, inclusion, and justice.

For Rosevelie, being a DEI leader means understanding the challenges of all individuals in the workplace to identify ways of creating spaces that are inclusive and supportive of the advancement of all.

Managing Multiple Roles

As the Chief Diversity Officer, Rosevelie advises on Hogan Lovells’s DEI strategic plan and makes sure that things are implemented. She has more of an advisor role internally. But, in addition to that, she often serves as a mentor and coach across multiple levels, and individuals navigate their specific challenges that they may have with their teams.

She thinks long-term and has the foresight on what they need to do next to maintain their position as a thought leader in the DEI space.

“I’m also an ambassador,” Rosevelie says. “We can’t do good DEI work internally if we are not embedded into what’s happening locally and in our communities.”

She is also involved with DEI and law firm organizations. So, she has a fair understanding of what is happening in communities as well as with clients.

As she wears multiple hats, she does not have a regular day at work. Sometimes she is working on recruitment, talent development, and/or client engagement.

“My role evolves and shifts on a daily basis,” Rosevelie says. “Right now, I’m focused on the upcoming DEI conference. So, I’m currently thinking a lot about its programming and the right speaker who can connect with my audience.”

Future from a DEI Perspective 

Rosevelie and her team are staying focused on the future, that means working toward embedding DEI into the fabric of the firm across all functions. Being a change agent means wanting to work toward achieving some good goals, in addition to continue doing what they have been doing. “It has to be woven in,” says Rosevelie.

DEI is only of many teams across a large organization, it is not possible for them to do all the work. So, everyone across all their practices and businesses equally needs to be engaged and aware of the firm’s DEI values, challenges, and be proactive in implementing the DEI initiatives. “That is not easy,” she says.

Hogan Lovells is a global organization. Rosevelie points out that their challenges are not the same regionally and/or locally.  Each have different nuances that require differing approaches to meet the overarching firm goals. “So, we are going to have several different paths in order to be able to reach their DEI goals,” she says.

“It is really about working with each individual to identify what the path needs to be, to make sure that we are implementing the changes needed to reach our goals,” Rosevelie adds. Over the next year, she and her team plan to reevaluate their goals as well.

Changing Landscape of DEI

Diversity, equality, and inclusion, the three closely linked values, are grouped together to form DEI. “The biggest shift is that we have moved away from just diversity in terms of representation,” Rosevelie says.

In the initial ten years, DEI was defined solely based on numbers. Rosevelie says that numbers are still important, but they are not going to make companies move forward. “It’s inclusion pieces and equiable practices that will do that,” she adds. “So, that’s where the greatest shifts are.” The question now is, “Do we have equitable practices that will create inclusive environments for anyone to thrive?

“There is also now a recognition that DEI is ‘not just a nice thing,’ but it is actually ‘something that is a must’ for all businesses in order to thrive in today’s society,” Rosevelie says.

Message to Aspiring Leaders

In a message to aspiring leaders, Rosevelie underscores that DEI is important and necessary work, and it requires a long-term commitment. “It’s not for those who are seeking short-term gratification,” she says.

She also advises aspiring leaders to be open-minded and not be judgmental. And she tells them not just to dictate a path but also to see where someone is standing and help them get across to where they need to be. She wants aspiring leaders to be a “bridge” like her.

“I meet people where they are at in order to move them forward,” Rosevelie says.

This is dedicated to Rosevelie’s grandmother Julia Castro Vasquez who passed this month. She thanks her grandmother for her love and continual strength throughout her life.