Oswaldo “Ozzie” Gromada Meza is on a mission to reduce your network gap. As the new acting president and CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), he knows better than anyone that landing a corporate board seat is not just about who you know but who knows you. He also knows that our network gap widens when we come from underrepresented and marginalized communities.
The first-generation Mexican American, who also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, developed a unique expertise in talent intelligence over the course of ten years of direct corporate experience in boutique and Fortune 50 organizations, and five years of entrepreneurial experience. In his new leading role at the LCDA, he is passionate about the organization’s mission to support and develop Latino corporate directors and their vision to become a trusted source for US corporations and search firms seeking Latino board talent.
As friends and partners of the LCDA, Hispanic Executive was thrilled to interview Gromada Meza about his first few months on the job and expert advice for our readers seeking corporate board seats.
Congratulations on assuming the role of acting president and CEO at the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA)! What can you tell us about your first few months in the role?
Thank you. I am proud to lead the LCDA at a time when we are making significant progress. My team and I have worked diligently to gather feedback from our members and partners to ensure that we are not only exceeding expectations but also collectively advancing our mission. We are committed to strengthening the organization and building meaningful relationships with those who influence the boardroom. By doing so, we can better understand what companies are looking for and how they are sourcing talent. This information will help to shape LCDA’s future and ensure that we continue to be a valuable resource for our members, partners, and community.
To give our readers more context, would you please expand on your various areas of expertise and how have they come together in your work diversifying corporate boards?
I am a talent intelligence expert with a deep understanding of the talent landscape. I leverage data to make better decisions about talent acquisition, development, and talent identification. Through my work in search firms and world-class talent acquisition teams, I have developed a strong understanding of the search process, including how talent candidate pools are identified. This perspective has allowed me to better understand the systemic recruiting methods and bias impeding the identification of Latino and LGBTQ+ candidate pools. That’s one of the many reasons I am thrilled to take on this role at the LCDA. The LCDA is the first organization to methodically track Latino talent and make it accessible to decision-makers [so they can] remove the excuse that executive Latino talent is hard to find.
You also serve as an advisory board member for the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors. Can you elaborate on how you leverage your experiences as a gay and Latino individual?
As an LGBTQ+ first-generation Mexican American, I have faced many instances of being made to feel invisible. I have been told, “I didn’t know you were gay,” or “I didn’t know you were Mexican.” These experiences have made me more determined to elevate the voices of those who are often overlooked.
I believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute, and I am committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable world. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to have open and honest conversations with leaders about their own identity challenges. These conversations have helped me to better understand other’s experiences and to become a more effective advocate for change. I am excited to continue elevating the invisible and to create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
Are there any notable similarities or differences in the approaches to increasing board diversity for the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities? What insights have you gleamed from your work at this intersection?
Latino and LGBTQ+ corporate board representation is staggeringly low. By any measure, Latinos are the least represented racial and ethnic group in the nation’s boardrooms. The Alliance for Board Diversity recently released the seventh edition of the Missing Pieces Report confirming what we already know: Latinos are being left out of the boardroom.
According to the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors, only 39 out of over 5,400 Fortune 500 board seats are occupied by LGBTQ+ directors. While there are many differences between the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities, they share two commonalities: they are not monoliths, and they are being left out of the pipeline because in many cases they lack the visible physical characteristics needed to identify them as diverse.
As organizations like yours continue their work to increase board diversity, what are some key obstacles that you have identified?
As a new organization in the governance and talent space, we face the challenge of low awareness. We are a new player in the ecosystem, and many people are not aware of our mission or our work to diversify corporate boards.
Aligning to our mission, one of the key barriers to diversifying corporate boards is bias. Systemic recruiting methods and bias are impeding the identification of Latino candidate pools. This is where LCDA has had a tremendous impact. We are taking the guessing game out of identifying qualified Latino directors. When a board influencer, director, search firm, or other stakeholder asks us, “Where are the Latinos,” we know where they are.
As the preeminent organization for tracking Latino talent, LCDA is pioneering a new approach to board diversity. We are connecting qualified Latino directors with influential roles within the boardroom, and we are offering a solution in the push for diversity and inclusion in corporate America.
What advice would you offer to underrepresented executives who aspire to secure corporate board positions?
Commit to building an exceptional career. Landing a corporate board seat is no easy feat, and seats are limited. Increase your marketability by studying the backgrounds of directors on boards you admire. Use this exercise to identify gaps in your skill set and develop a plan to fill them.
Commit to building a meaningful and intentional network. With more than 70 percent of searches still completed without a search firm, who you know and who knows you is key. Get involved in organizations that align with your interests and values and connect with people who are already serving on corporate boards.
Start to build governance knowledge. You can do this by joining a nonprofit board and gaining essential skills for success on a corporate board. If you want to elevate your brand, join a nonprofit board with a national presence.
Claim your ethnicity or sexual orientation. The Latino and LGBTQ+ communities face the exact same recruiting and bias challenges. Don’t be afraid to be open about your identity. There is ample talent in both communities.
Be kind and be humble. Board members must bring more than just hard skills to their seat on a board. Soft skills like being a good listener and collaborative are equally important for progressive boards and companies.
Be patient and resilient. This is a long game strategy. Do not expect to land a corporate board seat overnight. It takes time to build the skills, experience, and network necessary for success. The journey to the boardroom can be frustrating and overwhelming. How you manage those frustrations and find the positives in the bumps goes a long way.
Do the work. You cannot expect opportunities to land in your email. You must activate your network, develop a board résumé and bio, and get involved with organizations focused on governance.