How can Latinos secure more seats on corporate boards?
That is the question at the heart of the New Faces in the Boardroom issue. As the name suggests, we’ve made great strides in the past two years: there are indeed new faces in the boardroom. Leaders with impeccable qualifications and familiar life stories. Leaders that represent the best in our community.
This major step—propelled by decades of work by many individuals and organizations—signifies the beginning of what could be a steady march towards proportionate board representation. Our focus at Hispanic Executive is to continue to do our part, not just by highlighting new board trailblazers but also by drawing attention to the narrative surrounding board membership.
It is critical that we shift the dialogue from a “lack-of” conversation to a “here we are, and more is to come” discussion. The story that we tell ourselves about our progress—even if it’s incremental—matters. It broadens our awareness and perspective and motivates us to stand ready for when we are presented with board opportunities.
Which leads me to a toolbox of strategies to increase Latino board representation.
The first is one all Latino professionals should implement: lifting each other up and making inclusivity the default mode. Anilu Vazquez-Ubarri regularly demonstrates the efficacy of this strategy. Not one opportunity comes along where she doesn’t first consider a way to help our community advance. She keeps a personal list of highly qualified Latinos that she can quickly reference when she’s presented with new board positions. She understands her influence and responsibility and does not shy away from it.
The second strategy focuses on preparation and differentiation, emphasizing how potential board candidates need to expand their prospects. Alessandra Yockelson and Sandra Campos both offer practical advice to potential board leaders, explaining how they can prepare for board positions and how to arrive at a better understanding of what sets them apart. For both Yockelson and Campos, the effort to prepare is self-driven. It requires candidates to exert themselves professionally, to venture beyond their comfort zones, to diversify their networks so that their connections go beyond the Hispanic community, and to push back on the narrative that Latinos aren’t visible. Always show up, and always be ready and prepared.
Of course, while the first two strategies are within our control, many aspects of the board nomination and confirmation process are not up to us—which is where the third strategy comes into play. As Anilu Vazquez-Ubarri wisely advises in her interview for The New Majority podcast, we must continue to be “strategic and patient.”
Sometimes qualified Latinos are prevented from serving on boards by their own companies’ arcane policies regarding board leadership. Other times, it’s an issue on the part of the boards themselves. Luckily, companies are starting to rethink their approaches to board leadership—undertaking search processes focused on diverse candidates and implementing best practices that help remove biases. But it’s still often up to governance committees, who are over-reliant on legacy networks and partners, to find candidates to nominate.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. If trusted professional networks lack Latinos leaders, or if companies are too reliant on search processes entrusted to legacy networks or firms, the effort to nominate a Latino will be met by a strong headwind. There must be a demand for corporate board members and governance committees to rethink their search processes, revisit their policies, and most importantly, look deeply at their networks.
Personally, I have always found it difficult to be patient or strategic if I don’t believe in my ability to achieve my end goal, or if my own actions don’t match my dreams. For me, it can be a challenge to accept the notion that “there is no better time to be a Latino” when it comes to Latino representation in the boardroom if Latinos themselves are not doing anything to drive that reality.
If we are indeed here, and if there are indeed more of us to come, then everyone reading this letter would do well to follow the example of the executives in our feature section. They make it their day’s work—their life’s work—to uplift others and prepare for the future.