The nation’s Fortune 500 companies have approximately 5,463 board of directors. These positions set the tone of the US economy and establish workplace practices that impact employees and working families throughout the nation. Of these leadership positions, 3.2% are held by Latinos and .07% are held by Latinas according to the Alliance for Board Diversity. The actual list of Latinos and Latinos who serve on boards is available in Latino Leader Magazine’s annual update on Latino Board of Directors. This list is comprised of 138 individuals: 30 are Latinas and five of these serve on more than one Board. A total of 108 Latinos are listed and 27 of them serve on more than one board.
If there is one agenda item for Latinas in the US business community that is poised to make a true difference for our role in the US economy, it is to make a dramatic push to ensure the diversity of the corporate board rooms includes us. This means that we need to have 275 Latinas and Latinos on corporate boards by 2015. And, the same number needs to be added in 2016 and 2017 in order to increase the number of Latinos on Boards to match our representation in the US.
The path forward is two-fold. First, there are currently 1000 corporate board members in the Fortune 500 who are aged 70 or older. There will be a transfer of leadership in the Fortune 500 during the next few years that represents a significant opportunity for Latinas and Latinos to participate in the leadership of those companies, many of which are now targeting and profiting from our community the most. It’s no surprise: our purchasing power is now $1.2T and 86% of Latinas surveyed by Nielsen say women in their household make the primary purchasing decisions. Latina bloggers, with savvy social media skills, are actively engaged in promoting products ranging from skin care to infant toys. But the idea of simply targeting the Latina consumer without fully integrating us into the leadership of the Fortune 500 cannot continue. The Latino community must advocate now to diversify corporate boards.
Second, we must address the myth that there are too few qualified candidates. While standards for board membership vary from company to company, many are chosen to serve on boards primarily because of their access to other Board members. The call to serve on a board most likely takes place in a tight network of referrals among trusted advisors. In order to recruit Latinas to a Board, the Board chair must step outside his inner circle and be willing to look for us in different settings. Many Latinas have had anything but a traditional career. Knowledgeable, innovative, and financially savvy Latinas are likely to run their own businesses, serve in government, or be members of academic community at the nation’s best colleges and universities. We use our leadership skills to run nonprofit boards, regional commissions, or councils. The idea that there are no qualified candidates is simply not true.
I call upon the Latinas and Latinos who are part of professional associations and digital communities to claim this goal of seating 275 Latinos and Latinas for 2014. The time is now. Take a moment to scan your membership and look for those who have an interest in serving on a Corporate Board. Raise your hand to be counted and let’s add our names to the list. Let there be no excuse that we cannot be found. I’m raising my hand. I’m leaning in. Lean in with me.