Link With Me
Follow Me On Twitter
Contact Dr. Maria Hernandez
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    This area does not yet contain any content.

    The 2014 Latina Agenda: 275 Board Seats or Bust

    My syndicated blog appeared in New Latina, Latina Lista, and Hispanic News Online Flipboard

    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.  


    Calm Reflection


     There is no greater sorrow to be felt than for a parent to bury their child.  There are those parents who do so at the end of a long battle with their child fighting a disease and those who learn their child has died in an accident.  There is no comfort, no closure.  There is only a daily struggle to endure the loss that interrupts the day ever so unexpectedly at the site of a picture, a toy, a small memento of what once was—life.

    The death of a child at the hands of a stranger—a chance encounter that goes terribly wrong because of ignorance or arrogance, bias or stereotypes feels much harder to accept.  When Trayvon Martin’s death surfaced in the national headlines, there seemed to be a collective cry of disbelief,  “Haven’t we seen enough of this? Haven’t we made any progress in race relations?”  It was the right response and it forced upon the nation a trial that may have resulted in what some would call a sound legal finding but surely no justice.  We felt that outcry because Trayvon Martin’s murder was not typical.  He was not dealing dope on the street corner. He was not a drop out. He was not part of a gang. He had no police record.  He was a teenager with all the potential of living a strong and productive life.  Yet as a black male, he drew the biased attention of one person who assumed he was up to no good.   A fight ensued.  One gun shot. One life.

    If we are to dignify the short life of Trayvon Martin, I do not feel it is worth looking further at his murderer or whether the jurors debated enough. Instead, let’s call attention to gun violence and the grief of so many other families losing their young black sons.  The Pew Research Center reported that just in 2010 alone there were 31,672 deaths due to firearms and one third of these (11,078) were homicides and of those—55% were homicides of blacks.   Of these victims, 85% were black men between the ages of 18 and 40. And even harder to accept, 94% of the black victims were killed by other blacks.  Regardless of the challenges that may surround some communities—racism, joblessness, poverty—it is the availability and opportunity to use guns that changes everything with tragic consequences.

    We will never resolve the circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death.  One thing is clear: Had there been no gun involved in the conflict with his murderer, they would both be alive. We can overcome the outrage of Trayvon’s death with the right debate about access to guns, the pervasiveness of profiling and bias.  We owe it to him and we owe to his parents to at least do that.


    What is the GOP Code Word for America?


    These are the “word clouds” of President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and Governor Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.  These images represent the words they emphasized in stating their vision for the nation’s future.  Each reflects not only the difference between the candidates but the difference in what has now become Blue and Red America.  President Obama’s speech looked at the wide range of issues facing a nation in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  It is not surprising that the key word in his speech is “new”.  President Obama has made the case that we must address challenges we face in health care, alternative energy use, job creation and nothing short of restoring hope in the nation’s future.   

    Governor Romney’s speech centered on the words “America”, “Americans”, “American”, and “President”.  For some the image drawn from this speech is one of fierce patriotism and loyalty to the nation.   I was not inspired, however.  Each time he referred to Americans I kept seeing the faces of the people at the convention who were cheering him on and I did not see a whole lot of people like me.    When Governor Romney said, “Now is the time to restore the promise of America”, I had to ask which America he wants to restore.  My view of America today is that it is finally getting to a place where the promise of opportunity has reached the diverse communities of color that make up the nation.

    Is America a code word here for the GOP?  I think so. The America that the GOP seeks is a trip down memory lane when women and minorities were less visible in society and certainly less outspoken.  It’s an America that lets 1% of the population have their way with few restrictions.   It’s an America that didn’t need to worry about partisan politics because the work of protecting special interests was easier to hide without the transparency that new media has brought to us today.  It’s an America that was comfortable keeping gays and lesbians in the closet where they didn’t need to be heard or seen.

    Governor Romney, what America are you talking about?


    I Can’t Decide What’s More Upsetting-The Supreme Court Giving Partial Approval to Arizona’s Immigration Law or Governor Jan Brewer Claiming Total Victory!

    Let me start by affirming that the Supreme Court struck down 3 of the 4 elements of Arizona SB1070.  The specifics of this are:

    • The Supreme court said it is not a crime for undocumented immigrants not to carry an alien registration document.
    • The Supreme Court said it is not a crime for undocumented immigrants to look for a job or perform work in Arizona.
    • The Supreme Court said it would not be legal for a state or local police officer to conduct an arrest without a warrant when police have probable cause to believe an individual committed a felony, a misdemeanor or a crime that would make them removable from the United States.

    The Supreme Court did uphold  that state and local law enforcement officers in Arizona are authorized to determine the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be in the United States illegally. Law enforcement can ask for an Arizona driver’s license, Arizona ID card, tribal enrollment card or other official ID issued by a US federal, state or local government.

    On the surface, this seems to say that when an undocumented person follows the law and stays out of trouble, there is not likely to be any reason for an officer to stop and ask to see identification.  Since the majority of immigrants are not drug dealers, thieves, or murderers we can only hope that they will avoid this situation entirely.   Of course I crossed my fingers when I said (wrote) “hope”.  An officer with time on their hands can profile a person who j-walks and ask for documentation when on any other day or for any other person that would be ignored.  So much for the 4th Amendment!

    Then there’s Jan Brewer: The woman who had no problem pointing her finger at the President of the United States as if she were scolding him for eating cookies before dinner.  Not only is she claiming victory, she claims this is vindication of her state’s active position against undocumented immigrants to safeguard Arizona.  The 10th Amendment is written on her bathroom mirror.  I suppose in true political fashion the Governor knows how to make lemonade out of lemons.  Unfortunately all her bravado is giving rise to more anti-immigrant activists who join her in her delusion that one State in the union can preempt the laws of the United States.  

    I say let’s see how this works in about 2 years when Arizona’s economic ecosystem starts to suffer because all that inexpensive labor has gone missing. --M


    The Ultimate Price of Unconscious Bias


    This week the picture of Mohamed Ali in a black hoodie has gone viral—a sense that even The Greatest must feel lucky, “there but for the grace of God…”  

    The death of Trayvon Martin in Florida last month is every mother’s worst nightmare. It is not the cause of African American, Latino, Asian, or any one ethnicity or race of children. This child’s death is every child’s death at the hands of conscious and unconscious bias.  For George Zimmerman it meant something to see a young, black man wearing a hoodie, walking in an upscale neighborhood.  In a month or two it will be another person’s bias about a young Asian man wearing a leather jacket at a mall, later it will be a Latino youth carrying a back pack outside a fast-food shop or a white teenager wearing all black clothes.  We will grieve again. We will hold rallies. We will write essays.   

    Every mother has argued at one time or another with their child, “are you wearing THAT to school?” We have pleaded, “please get home before dark”.  We have all said, “it is not you that I’m worried about, it’s the others out there that I don’t trust”.  And now we can add another: “take that hoodie off”. 

     It’s pointless of course. It is just a false sense of security that the life of our children can be protected from a deadly equation of motive and opportunity.  Murder is motivated by a myriad of emotions that are triggered by an equally broad range of factors.  We cannot possibly give warnings to our children about every combination of emotion and triggers to avoid among strangers.  Some of Zimmerman’s friends have said he was not a racist.  And I would suggest that he might successfully argue he was not aware of how much he was motivated by hate or racial prejudice—this is the true challenge of unconscious bias.  Everyone one of us has a range of unconscious bias--beliefs and assumptions--that we act on in an instant. We see an African American walking toward us and without thinking clutch our handbag, clench a fist.  We see a group of Latino young men together and assume they are gang members. For Zimmerman, his unconscious bias met up with a deadly opportunistic accomplice—a lethal weapon.

    We should all worry about the hate speech that crowds the airwaves and blogosphere but the real work in an increasingly diverse world is to call attention to the unconscious bias we harbor that places us all in jeopardy.