How the LCDA is Working to Advance Latino Representation in Corporate Leadership

Listen to Episode 52 on Apple Podcasts

Guest: Esther Aguilera, CEO and President of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA)

Hosts: Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director of the Diligent Institute, and Meghan Day, Senior Director of Board Member Experience for Diligent Corporation

In this episode:

  1. The Current State of Latino Representation: Aguilera begins with some sobering statistics regarding Latino boardroom representation.
  2. The LCDA and Boardroom Diversity: Aguilera gives some background on the LCDA and some new initiatives they have been spearheading.
  3. The Leaky Pipeline: To conclude, Aguilera takes the discussion broad, and speaks on what still has to change going forward.

Summary:

In the push for greater boardroom diversity, how can we ensure we correctly track, measure, and promote progress? Esther Aguilera, President and CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) details the struggle for greater Latino representation in public company boardrooms, and what her organization is doing to help.

The Current State of Latino Representation

Bringing greater diversity by gender, race/ethnicity, and skillset into the boardroom has been an intense focus in the last few years, particularly in 2020 after intense social justice protests against racial inequity rocked the United States and other parts of the world. However, Aguilera notes an alarming disparity between the sizeable Latino population in the U.S. and the number of Latinos on boards: “Latinos actually have incredibly low levels of representation in U.S. boardrooms. Only 3% of board seats are held by Latinos, and yet we make up 20% of the population of the U.S.”

In California, the disparity is even greater: “In California, we found that Latinos make up about 40% of the population; a plurality. However, only 2% of board seats are held by Latinos on public companies.” Given California’s recent track record as a leader in diversity legislation in the United States, Aguilera discusses this disconnect: “These numbers are shocking on a state and national level given the demographics of the United States and the demographics of California in particular.”

For Aguilera, these disparities are not only unfair, but they are also not smart business moves: “Boards should reflect their customer base and employee base. Latinos bring in 25%, or 2.6 trillion USD, in GDP. When companies are looking for new markets, they often think of going abroad and fail to realize that they have a growing, largely untapped market here.”

“Companies lose market share without the insights that can and will come from representative governance.”

Esther Aguilera, CEO and President of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA)

The LCDA and Boardroom Diversity

The LCDA is working hard to combat these disparities. One way they do this is through careful tracking of board representation. Aguilera gives us an example: “After the first year of the gender diversity bill in California, we looked at how many women got placed on boards. Of the 511 women who were placed, 78% were white, 11% Asian, 5% Black, and only 3% Latinas.” This underscores the issue with gender diversity requirements for board seats: companies will often bring on mostly white women. As she puts it: “Even when pushing for more women, we need to think about the demographics of the women who are being appointed.”

Aguilera also provided us an update on the LCDA’s Latino Board Tracker, which monitors the number of Latinos being added to boardrooms in the U.S.: “We looked first at the Fortune 1000 and Russell 1500, going through SEC filings to identify and track Latinos on boards. We have a dedicated list, and in many cases we reach out to the individual, so this tracker is based on self-identification.” It notes which companies have Latino directors and which do not.”

The LCDA’s newest boardroom equity initiative is titled Latinos for Boardroom Equity. Aguilera gives us a brief overview: “Latinos for Boardroom Equity includes many national and well-respected organizations. The community is urging companies to address this representation issue, by writing to companies asking them to change their practices, and to make the business case for inclusion.” In large part, this is about a community organizing and using their voice as part of the larger business community: “For us, it’s important for the business community to understand that the Latino business community is paying attention and cares deeply about who needs a seat at the table.”

“The bottom line is that in the U.S., 25% of GDP comes from the Latino community. We are becoming a greater part of the workforce and the U.S. population. No U.S. company can be effectively governed without this stakeholder group at the table.”

Esther Aguilera, CEO and President of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA)

The Leaky Pipeline

Aguilera also dives into how perceptions about diversity need to change in order to make meaningful progress. She debunks the myth that there aren’t qualified Latino candidates: “So many companies cite the lack of a diverse talent pool to explain their lack of diversity. There are so many networks full of qualified candidates to tap into.”

For Aguilera, increasing diversity and inclusion in the corporate world is about nurturing diverse employees through every stage of development: “Starting with an early pipeline, you nurture this at every level of your organization to reflect your customers and the society you operate in. Diversity needs to be nurtured and promoted at every level, even into the C-Suite and the board.”

She cites a McKinsey study about this issue: “For example, they found that at the entry level, 40% of applicants were male, and by the time one looks at the C-suite, applicants 70-80% male. This is a problem.” She continues, “This is not just because women are having children. This runs much deeper than that.”

“We want to surface and showcase absolutely incredible and capable Latinas for these roles. We want to be part of the solution and help other companies be part of the solution as well.”

Esther Aguilera, CEO and President of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA)

Resources from this episode: