Latinas and Corporate America
Achievements and Challenges
By Marcela Miguel Berland and Frank Gómez
Hispanic Heritage Month is a fitting opportunity to celebrate the
achievements of Latinas in Corporate America. We can celebrate
that they are growing in numbers and influence. And we can reflect
on the pioneers who opened doors for future executives, who sacrificed to
advocate for Latinos – especially Latinas – and to secure corporate support
to help organizations and advance careers.
Despite their progress, Latinas face many challenges in Corporate
America – lack of representation in the C-Suite and corporate boards,
barriers to advancement, salary disparities, discrimination and more.
Of 10 Fortune 500 Latino CEOs, none is a Latina, although Geisha Williams
stepped down last year as CEO of PG&E. And Latinas in C-Suites are woefully
underrepresented. Many companies make lofty pronouncements and feature
principles and practices on their websites, but a look at the executive ranks
betrays a lack of action.
The numbers are not good, but are getting better, says Esther Aguilera,
President, Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA). “Latinas hold
only 0.85% of board seats in Fortune 1000 firms. However, our growing
membership and our BoardReady Institute help us grow these numbers. It’s
not a supply issue, it’s a demand issue—to increase the bottom line,
companies must be intentional about board diversity.”
Our firm recently completed a major study of Latinos in a leading
industry sector. Focus groups, interviews and an online survey revealed
persistent discrimination against Latinas, opportunities denied and more. In
that industry – and in many others – frustration often means exit and the
pursuit of other opportunities.
“Latinas face a wage gap,” says Marlene Orozco, Lead Research
Analyst, Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. “The average woman
earns 80 cents and Latinas 53 cents on the dollar paid to men. Low pay,
the ‘glass ceiling’ and their higher education and skills may be pushing
Latinas to start their own businesses.”
As Orozco indicates, Latina-owned companies are rapidly increasing in
numbers, representing nearly half of the growth of all Latino businesses.
Since 2012, Latino owned firms have grown more than 30%, more than
double the growth rate of all businesses in the country.
Julio Portalatín, Marsh & McLennan Vice Chair and former head of its
Mercer unit, exemplifies advocacy. “We achieved 50/50 gender parity at
the executive committee level,” he explains. “First as a commitment from
the top, making it a business issue, establishing goals with measurements
and being transparent about where we were on the journey. We invited all
to recognize the importance and participate in achieving the goals.
Answering the tough questions,” he says, “ensures that we address deeper
issues like unconscious bias or pipeline adequacy.”
Our research at Latin Insights shows that to advance Latinas
Marlene Orozco, Lead Research Analyst, Stanford Latino
- Have a clear mandate from the C-Suite down, with specific goals
- Identify and highlight middle- and upper-level Latinas
- Use mentor programs to acquire tools for success
- Better demonstrate how they can help grow the bottom line
Indeed, let’s celebrate the achievements of Latinas, continue the
struggle to overcome, and ensure that they have the opportunities to
continue to excel.
Marcela Miguel Berland is the founder and
President of New York City-based Latin Insights.
Frank Gómez, a veteran Latino activist, is her partner.
Reach Marcela at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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36 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle V ol. 26, No. 4, 2020