Back in 2019, when Anilu Vazquez-Ubarri was selected as one of The Alumni Society’s Class of 2019 honorees, she was just settling into a new role. The Goldman Sachs veteran had earned a reputation as the person to call to build out a talent development team, a new concept she had helped pioneer and one that has become more and more normalized in future-looking organizations working to create diverse and enduring talent pipelines.
“I’m proud that those efforts have become a model for other firms and that talent development is something that’s becoming more commonplace in financial services and private equity,” says Vazquez-Ubarri, who now serves as a partner and as the chief human resources officer at TPG. “It’s been one of my biggest accomplishments to create something that is new, to build something that didn’t exist before.”
Along with her significant impact on the future of DEI, Vazquez-Ubarri is also helping to pave the way for more Hispanic leadership on corporate boards. As she knows full well, there is an immense wealth of talent that is ready and willing to serve on those boards—if only they are given the chance.
Vazquez-Ubarri’s passion for this subject is strongly rooted in her recent experiences as a member of Upwork’s board of directors, which she joined in 2020. “I was attracted to Upwork for a number of different reasons,” she explains. “They have a female CEO [Hayden Brown] who was previously at the company, and I saw they had put effective succession management into place that allowed that to happen. Secondly, the board was diverse even before I joined. I was the fourth woman and second person of color to come on board, so I knew they were coming to me for my expertise, not to meet a requirement.”
This isn’t the CHRO’s first foray into board leadership. Vazquez-Ubarri also serves on the board of directors for TPG portfolio company Greenhouse, a role that is particularly close to her heart. “Greenhouse’s whole mission is to equalize the recruiting process,” she says, “and they’re proving that you don’t have to have concessionary returns in order to do good.
“I’m hoping to continue to raise the question of diverse representation across the industry,” she continues, “[and show that] there’s nothing wrong with having more than one person of color on a board. No one balks at more than one white male serving on a board, so I’m hoping to foster a more holistic conversation about finding the true best candidate for the role, wherever they come from.”
Vazquez-Ubarri’s philosophy when it comes to her board work, her day job, and her changemaking mission is defined by a clear commitment to helping make new inroads for diverse candidates. Those candidates are more than qualified, she says, and are often the best choice for a role, but are nevertheless overlooked.
The slate of calls Vazquez-Ubarri received to join more boards after taking on the Upwork role is a prime example of what she wants to change. “The calls were great, but you should be calling other people who haven’t gotten their first experience yet,” she explains. “The only way the Hispanic community is going to move ahead is by focusing on our peers and being committed to each other.”
Vazquez-Ubarri is an active member of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), an organization that TPG sponsors. The CHRO looks to the LCDA as a vital source for education and networking opportunities for those looking for their first board roles. There’s also a more informal effect that Vazquez-Ubarri says is just as important, if not more so.
“Supporting organizations like the LCDA and being active helps me keep the names of people I think might be a good fit for roles at the ready,” Vazquez-Ubarri explains. “When I get a call asking to sit on a board, I’ve got a list of five or six people I think they should contact. It’s a chance for me to play matchmaker and advance the mission of both myself and the organization.”
But there is one other role that Vazquez-Ubarri wasn’t able to pass on. TPG completed its initial public offering in mid-January 2022, and Vazquez-Ubarri is now serving on the company’s board as one of two Hispanic executives.
The opportunity makes complete sense, especially given all Vazquez-Ubarri has done to make her current role her own. Along with more traditional CHRO responsibilities, Vazquez-Ubarri has led the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, acted as an executive sponsor for TPG Next (the company’s investment in diverse managers working to start their own funds, through which Vazquez-Ubarri has sourced two of three successful funds herself), and partnered with the communications department she oversees to help amplify the company’s goals to employees.
“That’s one thing I really want people to understand,” the CHRO says. “You can construct a role in a number of different ways with human capital at the core. You just have to find the right organization to continue to build out those skills.”
At this point in her career, Vazquez-Ubarri has the awards, the lists, and the résumé that many dream of. She’s helped build a pipeline that will help increase diversity not just in junior roles but in senior leadership as well. And in 2021 alone, she helped ensure that 67 percent of TPG’s total hires were diverse.
But Vazquez-Ubarri is nowhere near ready to stop. Now, she wants to help more Hispanics enter the boardroom. She’s there because she deserves it, and she knows there are many who belong beside her.