Patricia Salas Pineda Energizes the Board of Levi Strauss

Applying her renowned leadership skills in the boardroom, she tirelessly pushes Levi Strauss to strive for success and never settle

Patricia Salas Pineda, Group VP, Hispanic Business Strategy, Toyota Motor North America

The first thing one wonders, after realizing how much Patricia Salas Pineda gets done every day, is how many hours her days must contain.

As the group vice president of Hispanic business strategy for North America, Pineda is responsible for optimizing relations between Toyota and national Hispanic organizations. She also leads the company’s efforts on strengthening ties with the Hispanic consumer and maintaining Toyota’s position as the number-one automotive choice for Latinos.

“I have had a long and rich career as a C-suite automotive executive and leader. I bring to Toyota the experience associated with that,” she says. “Although most of my career has been as a general counsel, I have always worked closely with the Hispanic market, through communications, philanthropy, and human resources.”

She also serves on the board of directors for Levi Strauss & Co., one of the world’s largest apparel companies. Here, Pineda brings to the boardroom her extensive business, legal, and corporate governance expertise, as well as her leadership and critical-thinking skills.

“When the opportunity arose, I was intrigued and honored by the prospect of serving on that board,” she says. “I also felt I had a lot to offer. I have enjoyed chairing the audit and human-resource committees and engaging on critical topics such as the company’s strategic business plan.”

Pineda says she has always been fascinated by business and leadership strategies as well as how and why consumers interpret brands differently. Her days, shared among the Toyota headquarters, the boardroom, and her home, are typically long. Fortunately, she enjoys being busy.

“I have been blessed with a high level of energy and the ability to manage my time efficiently,” she says. “I work long days and have been able to devote the necessary time to fulfill my corporate director responsibilities, excel in my day job, and enjoy my family.”

Pineda, a Mexican American, was born and raised in Santa Paula, California, a predominantly Latino community known as the “citrus capital of the world” for its fertile orange and lemon groves.

“I enjoy working as a board member to help guide a company to great success. As an added dimension,
I bring the important insights and perspectives of being a female, and a Latina, representing two of the fastest-growing consumer segments in this country.” 

Patricia Salas Pineda

“My parents were not college-educated, but were very engaged in my education and upbringing,” she says. “I grew up being proud of my heritage and language.”

She received a BA from Mills College and her JD from the University of California–Berkeley.

“I was encouraged by my teachers and professors from high school to college to consider a career in law. I have always enjoyed advocacy, writing, and developing an argument.”

It is in the boardroom, Pineda says, where she has been able to combine her breadth of experience and skills. “I enjoy working as a board member to help guide a company to great success,” she says. “As an added dimension, I bring the important insights and perspectives of being a female, and a Latina, representing two of the fastest-growing consumer segments in this country.”

In just five years, Hispanics are projected to exceed 20 percent of the population, and 30 percent by 2050. “Eventually, one out of every three Americans will be Latino,” Pineda says. “So, participation from Latinos and Latinas alike in American society is essential. Educating our people is the foundation for that future. We need to increase the number of Latinos with college degrees, advanced degrees, or other professional preparation. We need to develop our political presence and clout, and we need to work towards a greater presence in corporate America.”

That is why she encourages Latinos working in the C-suite and senior positions to consider serving on a corporate board, participating in development programs for aspiring corporate directors.

“It’s important for Latinos and Latinas to work together in support of these objectives,” she says. “I look forward to seeing many more Latinos and Latinas in leadership roles in all sectors of our US society.”

In the Hot Seat with guest editor Myrna Soto

MS: As a member of the human-resource committee at Levi’s, how have you influenced the direction of talent management and succession planning?

PP: I chaired the human-resource committee for many years and continue to be a member. As part of that committee, I have had the opportunity to provide input in the areas of talent management and succession planning. I’m always advocating for a solid succession plan to ensure sufficient internal bench strength to fill senior leadership positions when they become available. Also, I was a principal in the hiring negotiations of the current CEO.

MS: Your long-standing manufacturing experience certainly places you in a very critical advisory position to guide Levi’s supply chain and fulfillment of their products. Can you share any examples of this as it relates to how Levi’s engages with the Hispanic community, be it distribution, manufacturing, or overall marketing?  How has the board provided guidance in this area?

PP: My long-standing manufacturing experience has provided me with an appreciation for the importance of process, and I have always tried to take that experience and apply it to my work at Levi Strauss & Co. Since my role at Toyota is connected to the Hispanic consumer market, I have provided Levi’s with insights on the importance of that market. I believe that the company has done a great job of targeting multicultural consumers, including Hispanics.

MS: Can you share a little more about your involvement with the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Executive Forum?  How has it influenced your role as a board member at Levi’s?

PP: Based on my involvement with the Forum and my experience at Toyota and elsewhere, I bring perspective and serve as a good sounding board when it comes to corporate citizenship. Levi Strauss & Co. has always been a premier innovator in the area of corporate social responsibility and continues to be.

MS: What are some of the ways you balance prioritizing your personal life with your corporate and executive life? 

PP: I need some physical activity, and right now, boxing is one of my favorite sports. I go to a gym and also have a personal trainer. That helps me sustain a high level of energy.

I also take time to enjoy other passions. Music, for example, is a passion of mine. I studied piano for many years and enjoy all types of music. My husband and I listen to everything from salsa, to rock, to classical, to jazz.

(Photo: Sheila Barabad)