Laura Flores, appointed last August to a five-year post as Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Panama to the United Nations, admits to being a bit of a nerd. Twenty years post-MBA, says Flores, “I still carry around my books and papers from Haas.” The school’s wallet-size culture card, too: “It’s my security blanket,” she jokes. “Students Always.”
Raised in Panama, Flores, 47, always planned to “work for the greater good of the world” like her grandfather, a member of Panama’s first delegation to the U.N. in New York, in 1946. After graduating from Brown, she launched a career in development before making the “oddball” move of pursuing an MBA. “I wanted to learn the efficiencies of the corporate world—the results orientation, the bottom-line approach—and import that knowledge into my public-interest career,” she says. Flores went on to serve as Panama’s first vice minister of foreign trade and headed the country’s office for the United Nations Population Fund until last year.
Driven by a passion for “providing that bridge between multiple stakeholders, making sure one side understands the other,” Flores says her current mandate is to solidify Panama’s longtime role as a “convener, mediator, and facilitator,” as well as represent the thriving nation’s complex interests as it transitions into a net-contributing country. Less than a year into the job, she’s already helped shape global events like the unprecedented April 2015 meeting between President Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro.
The divorced parent of a seven-year-old son, Flores says she’s a typical single mom, juggling motherhood and career. But true to form, she recently began bridging those disparate worlds as well, co-founding the Ambassadors Kids Club, a networking space that brings together U.N. ambassadors around play dates for their kids. Not by accident, the innovation also aligns perfectly with the U.N. mission. After all, says Flores, “We are working for the children and their future.” —Autumn Stephens
Panama’s Ambassador to the U.N.
New York City