Western Union empowering young leaders – an open conversation with Karla Parajeles Chaves

People By Andrea Rodriguez Villalta June 16, 2022

At Western Union, we believe in helping develop our employees in unique ways that work for them. And just as we connect people around the world through our services, we also aim to help create social impact worldwide through our Western Union Foundation initiatives, employee giving program, and supporting activities that align with our values.

One Young World (OYW) is a global community for young professionals, creating a world where leaders with integrity are empowered to build an equitable, sustainable future for all. Western Union has sponsored our employees as delegates to OYW events since 2015. One Young World logo

The One Young World Summit convenes the brightest young talent from every country and sector, working to accelerate social impact. It is held in a different country yearly, with Holland, Bogota, and Germany being the most recent host countries. During the pandemic, OYW didn’t want the distance to impede this congregation, so they hosted virtual events, grouping delegates by time zone. Most only attend the Summit once; however, the networking experience is so rewarding that this single opportunity changes the rest of their lives.

I had the pleasure to speak with Karla Parajeles Chaves, a young female leader who has been with Western Union in Costa Rica since 2014 and has a professional career marked by growth. She represented Western Union as an OYW delegate in 2018 and was recently included in its 2021 Impact Report. Let’s learn more about her career, OYW experience, and current initiatives.

Tell us about how you were selected for your first One Young World event.

“To participate, I had to submit a video summarizing my social work activities, whether within my company or externally. I had been part of Western Union’s “Y Council” committee in Costa Rica for years—listening to our colleagues, their ideas, and needs and using these to help make our site a great place to work. I was also a founding member of the “Belong” committee—the first diversity & inclusion employee resource group (ERG) for the Costa Rica location. I referenced my work with these two committees by doing a poem because I thought this art form was the one that represents me the most. I also mentioned that I worked for years as an independent activist for the LGBTI+ community and as a mental health advocate.”

“About two months after submitting my application, my leader shared the news that I had been selected to represent Western Union at the One Young World Summit 2018 – The Hague, along with twenty-two fellow employees.”

What have you enjoyed most about your One Young World experience?

“The possibility Western Union and OYW have given me—a stable job where I can also lead activities with an impact. The networking opportunities have been incredible and strategic, meeting many excellent people along this journey. I have a friend from Ukraine that I met during the Summit, and she is now a front-liner in the war. I check in with her regularly to see if she needs anything and ask her how she is doing personally. This is just one example of what this experience has given me.”

What have you been up to since participating in the 2018 One Young World Summit?

“A little bit of everything. At the OYW Summit, I participated in an event with our Social Ventures Lead, meeting a group of refugees. They were with their kids, who acted as translators for their parents, as they were the only ones who spoke English. We were inspired by both the parents and children, so we went on to collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to support current refugees and help those with the documentation they need to obtain refugee status.” (Learn more about partnership).

“Additionally, after founding “Belong,” we started ten similar committees in other Western Union locations. Now, I’m currently working on a program to train employees on diversity and inclusion so that they can become “DEI Advocates” for the company. These advocates will help ensure that the correct terminology is used as inclusive language, starting projects with an inclusive approach, and implementing diverse practices such as diverse panels on our hiring teams. They are not members of the Belong committee but will help promote a safe workspace for our more underrepresented employee groups.”

How has Western Union supported the ideas you brought back from your experience?

“Support has always been extremely high from the company. Some time ago, I had the idea of requesting “second parent” leave for Western Union Costa Rica employees; I had heard that this benefit was offered at other companies around the globe. After presenting my suggestion to Human Resources, it became a reality. This benefit applies to fathers and mothers who are not biological parents to their children, for example, in the case of same-sex marriages. After this benefit was approved, second parents went from having no days off to be with their children to receiving ten. This was a significant win for being inclusive of our employees’ needs.”

How have these experiences and being part of these committees helped you in your professional career?

“I have grown a lot. I went from being an individual contributor to a people manager. Western Union has given me the opportunity to be heard, learn new things every day, and, most importantly, develop professionally and personally. These opportunities have been a revolving door to new beginnings. Combining my work and dedication to different projects has increased my network and allowed me to have continued success in my role.”

What is your advice to those interested in participating in One Young World? 

“Please do it! Sometimes we are the ones who put the “no” on ourselves. Don’t wait for the Summit to start taking action. There is a solid network out there where you can ask questions. Get your leaders involved in the opportunity, like ours are at Western Union. OYW offers a range of topics to get involved in. Do not wait, and if you have questions, ask me—we can connect on LinkedIn!”

You can also read Karla’s full feature in the 2021 Impact Report – Leadership Stories.

At Western Union, we want every employee to feel that they belong, are treated equitably, and have the same growth opportunities. Stories like Karla’s remind us of our commitment to provide an inclusive work culture that champions our teams’ unique backgrounds and perspectives while reflecting the global communities we serve.

If working with a team that values diversity at all levels, we invite you to explore a career with Western Union. Visit wucareers.com the learn more.