From El Salvador to France, first business lawyer then international affairs counsel, speaking three languages, Kenia Denoyés was named one of the most successful Salvadoran women expatriates by the El Salvador Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of El Salvador in Brazil in 2015.
Based in Paris, Kenia is the Associate General Counsel-Europe for Hanesbrands Inc., the world’s largest marketer of everyday basic apparel. She started her career as a business lawyer in 2002, and occupied various positions at Hanesbrands Inc. and JCDecaux, that led her to work both in Latin America and in Europe.
“Will is power, discipline is always the method, smiling is a world-wide language, and that is a common denominator anywhere you go.” These are some of the inspiring words of Kenia. If you want to discover more, read our interview!
You started your career as a business lawyer, then you became corporate associate. What drove you to integrate the corporate world, and would you consider practicing as a lawyer again one day?
It is my taste for challenge and novelty that drove me to integrate the corporate world. I was offered the role as head in-house counsel for Latin America when I was 30 years old: this would be my first experience in-house and the first time I would be working directly with matters in jurisdictions like Brazil and Argentina. What could be more appealing? A whole new world literally opened to me, with countless opportunities to learn something new. I found it very stimulating to see the flipside of things, such as taking calculated risks on a regular basis, or learning about the impact of my profession on the course of a company's business -and vice versa.
However, I do miss the advantages of private practice, including the chance of getting to know the most intimate details of the law or the doctrine, or being the precursors of new legal concepts or methods. For this reason, I would not exclude practicing as a lawyer again in the long-term future.
Overseeing the legal affairs of Hanesbrands Inc. in the EU, South Africa and Russia, what are the specific issues you have to deal with and the challenges you have to address?
We deal with any and all legal matters related to the manufacturing and sale of apparel, which goes from ensuring the respect of our consumers’ rights (through adequate labels and packaging, loyal advertising, transparency, etc.), or defending our company's rights from third parties, and ensuring compliance with laws that are applicable to us in our capacity of employers, vendors or data controllers and processors.
A typical day might start by organizing a merger in France, followed by a labour litigation matter in Italy, a packaging issue in Russia and finishing with the review of a new contract for the UK. Face to the volume and the variety of matters, my biggest challenge is to keep my mind open to the specific needs of each jurisdiction and business, and keep my priorities aligned with those of the business.
“My biggest challenge is to keep my mind open to the specific needs of each jurisdiction and business.”
You were named one of the most successful Salvadoran women expatriates. How do your many international experiences help you succeed in your current position ?
Greatly! My experience abroad is an almost unlimited source of ideas and inspiration. If something worked fine in Brazil, why not give it a try in France? Sometimes only a little tweak would need to be done! But more importantly, living abroad taught me that boundaries are in one’s head: will is power, discipline is always the method, smiling is a world-wide language, and that is a common denominator anywhere you go.
“Living abroad taught me that boundaries are in one’s head.”
Despite your international experience and studies, do you still feel deeply rooted in your culture and home country?Absolutely. Salvadorans are well-known for their industriousness, their hard-working ethics and their hospitality. I would like to think that I represent those qualities well, and that it will be the case no matter where I am.
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today and it seems to be an important issue for you. What are the actions implemented by Hanesbrands Inc. in this regard?
Our Hanes for Good program is very rich.
In collaboration with the Wake Forest University, we provide medical assistance to communities in need in Central America and the Caribbean, we encourage our employees to pursue their education and hundreds of our employees in El Salvador and Honduras have obtained high school diplomas and superior education scholarships.
Together with the Glasswing foundation, we sponsor after-school activities for communities threatened by the presence of gangs, as a measure to help keep children and teenagers in the right path. We support our communities’ environmental initiatives and our supply chain has been many times recognized for making a mindful use of the resources during the manufacturing process.
I could go on and on. I am very proud of working for a company that is sincerely committed to doing things right.
In the course of your career, you helped to negotiate several collective bargaining agreements. Could you tell us about a memorable case for which you had to use your negotiation skills ?
One of the most useful negotiation lessons I have learned is to always seek to create value for both parties. When we focus on interests instead of positions, things are never black or white, there is always a range of gray in the middle. For instance, during a negotiation in the Dominican Republic, we had several occasions to reflect on the “orange example”: two parties are fighting endlessly for an orange ( “I need the orange”,” I need it too”, “I deserve the orange”, “I deserve it too”… ) until they realize that one of them wants the orange to make some juice, whilst the other wants the peel to make some orange jam.
“One of the most useful negotiation lessons I have learned is to always seek to create value for both parties.”
You are the youngest member of Hanes Europe’s Leadership Team: how did you work your way up so quickly in the company and what are the best pieces of career advice you would give to younger generation ?
I grew up being very close to my grandmother. She used to say all the time that “if other children can do it, you can do it too”. It seems that learning by repetition works, because that is the one idea that stuck with me throughout my life. If I were to give my son a piece of advice, that would be the following: you need to believe in yourself first, and the rest will come.