Interview
"Companies that do not have Latinos are losing relevance with their largest customers"
Esther Aguilera is President and CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA). In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, she reveals the barriers and myths that Latinos must overcome to occupy management positions.

Latinos are grossly underrepresented on corporate boards, especially considering the size of Hispanic population in the country. According to the latest data, Latinos represent 19% of the US population, but in 2020 (latest available data) they held 4.1% of the positions on the boards of the companies in Fortune 500.

"Having Latinos on the board of directors is good for the business of companies," says Esther Aguilera, President and CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), in an exclusive dialogue with LPO. The executive, who contributes her experience in corporate governance, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance criteria) and DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in companies) serving on the Advisory Council of the NACD Center for Inclusive Government, the Board of Directors of the Thirty Percent Coalition, The Advisory Board of the Latinx Executive Alliance, as well as advising half a dozen other leading organizations.Aguilera talks about the work she and the association are doing to break down the myths about Latinos and the importance of companies taking them into account for the most relevant positions at the corporate level.

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"Unfortunately there is a myth or misinformation. In the past, companies said that they could not find qualified Latinos. Now we are here to help find them," said the CEO of LCDA.

You function as a link between Latino executives and companies that are in need of board positions. Do companies go out looking for Latino talent or do you have to bring it closer?

Yes, we are organized and we have worked hard the last three years to have 500 members in the association right now. We are a community of Hispanics/Latinos at the highest levels of corporate leadership. Our mission is to develop, support and increase the number of Latinos on corporate boards.

And a problem in our community is that it was not organized. And companies did not know where to go looking for them. That has changed. But you still have to bring or provide Latino talent, it is difficult for companies to actively search for it. We help find Latino candidates when companies ask us, or we offer them. Our members on company boards also speak up and foster.

But there are still many things that limit Latinos and Latinas. There are many stories of Latinos who have climbed the ranks in a company, whose bosses are satisfied with their performance, and obstacles show up.

Although there have been advances, because when you started only 2.7% of the seats on boards of directors were occupied by Latinos, there is still a long way to go. How far is the goal?

We still have a long way to go, there are many seats to fill. Especially for Latinas, who only occupy 1% of the seats on the boards of Fortune 500 companies. In addition, the community is underrepresented in the "C suite" levels, both for Latinos and Latinas. On this we want to drive our presence.

"Companies that do not have Latinos are losing relevance with their largest customers"

In the short term, how much more do you think the Latino presence can be increased?

This year we hope to increase Latino participation in the boards of directors, if it is not possible by 1 additional point, at least half a point. But there are still many things that limit Latinos and Latinas. There are many stories of Latinos who have climbed the ranks in a company, whose bosses are satisfied with their performance, and obstacles show up.

One of them, for example, is the story of a Latina whose bosses asked her to do something with her accent so they could promote her. To another, a Mexican American, they even said "you are lucky, you do not look Mexican". All these things make our people fall behind. This is what makes a completely different experience for a Latino in the United States, different than the one they could have in their home countries.

Unfortunately there is a myth or misinformation. In the past, companies said that they could not find qualified Latinos. Now we are here to help find them. But you also have to bring Latino talent closer, it is difficult for companies to actively search for it.

Do companies lose market by not having Latinos at the highest levels -who can carry out strategies precisely for the fastest growing community in the country?

Yes, companies that do not have Latinos are losing relevance with their largest customers. Latinos are 2.7 trillion, and in terms of GDP they are a huge economy in the United States. They are the most important growth market for retail companies, such as Walmart, which have very good profits in part due to Latinos' consumption.

In addition, it is a signal for the rest of the employees. Because employees look at who's on top and whether or not they value them. At the end of the day, all this affect corporate culture. There is more and more researches that show that diversity in companies is positive for development. There is no doubt that having Latino talent is good for business.

Translator: Bibiana Ruiz

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