Posts

Esther Aguilera, LCDA

“We are being left behind” in the C-suite and boardroom says LCDA CEO Esther Aguilera

Esther Aguilera is the CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA).  With 30 years of experience working in Washington, DC. Esther is passionate about elevating Latinxs to positions of power and preparing them for a seat at the table. 

Esther Aguilera, LCDA CEO (Photo courtesy LCDA)

LCDA serves as an advocate and resource to corporate boards, search firms, private equity, and institutional investors interested in gaining access to exceptional Latinx board talent.

In the second installment of the National Leaders for Latinx Advancement Series, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann, spoke to Esther about LCDA’s work in advancing Latinx visibility in C-level positions and company boards. 

“We are being left behind” in the C-suite and boardroom 

The Latino Corporate Directors Association became fully operational in 2016 and was founded by a pioneering group of Latino corporate directors, serving on publicly traded or large private company boards who had grown tired of the low number of Latinos in the boardroom. Search firms and companies were saying, “We can’t find qualified Latinos for the boardroom.” LCDA was established as a way to address this issue and increase the number of U.S. Latinos on corporate boards. 

Historically, Latinos are the least represented compared to any other group. Only 3% of the Fortune 1000 company board seats are held by Latinos, despite the large size of the U.S. Latino population.

“We are being left behind,” said Esther. “In fact, over the last 10 years, between 2010 and 2020, Latinos only gained 1%. We went from 2% of corporate board seats to 3%. Latinos and Latinas are invisible in the C-suite and the boardroom. For Latinas, it’s even smaller. Only about 1% of the public company board seats are held by Latinas. Yet, we are such a large and contributing sector, we have a long tradition of entrepreneurship and growing corporate business businesses nationwide.”

Visibility is the main challenge facing Latinas and Latinos aspiring for C-level positions and this is what LCDA is working to address through its programs and membership. One of the ways they are doing this is by growing the pool of Latino board-qualified candidates. 

“What we have done is focused on growing the supply. Our membership has tripled in the last couple of years and we are showcasing and bringing together qualified Latinos for the boardroom,” said Esther.  

By doing this, it takes away the excuse so many have used in the past, that they simply cannot find qualified Latinos for board positions. The Latino Corporate Directors Association brings together ample talent from corporate directors, current and former corporate CEOs, to C-suite and top executives in corporate America in a one-of-a-kind network that has never existed for the Latino community before. 

“We have set it upon ourselves, so now that we have the talent pool, and the supply, we work directly with companies,” said Esther. “We’re writing to companies to say, there is ample talent, and we can help you find it. We work with companies, search firms, private equity, to tap that talent.” 

The LCDA’s efforts have made historic numbers this past year. In just the first six months of 2021, LCDA has, directly and indirectly, influenced 175 corporate board appointments, which is four times greater than last year’s 43 appointments. 

You might be interested: New America Alliance CEO Solange Brooks says, “Diversity is one of the elements of success”

Latinx workplace advancement opportunities 

Another challenge facing Latinx individuals in corporate America is access to advancement opportunities. 

Esther Aguilera, LCDA CEO, speaking at the 4th Annual LCDA Board Leaders Convening 2019 (Photo courtesy LCDA)

“I have a couple of stories working with some of our Latina executives and they shared with me some of the barriers that they have faced. One of them was approached by her HR person, and they said, ‘Here’s a job for you to consider, it pays a little more, etc.’ And she went to a mentor and said, ‘HR is steering me in this direction. What should I be aware of?’ And her mentor said, ‘I’m so glad you came to me, that job is a dead-end job. It will take you maybe another step. But then there’s no opportunity for advancement there.’”

This story is one many Latinos and Latinas have faced before. They are presented with a seemingly great opportunity only to later discover the new position offers no room for further advancement. In the case of this particular woman’s story, the power of a good mentor helped steer her in the right direction to make the best choice for her career. 

In the LCDA’s network, mentorship and coaching from experienced directors helps advance aspiring executives as they pay it forward and prepare the next group of executives for the boardroom. 

LCDA, BoardReady Institute

The BoardReady Institute prepares executives for the boardroom. (Graphic Source)

One of the Association’s key programs is the BoardReady Institute, a unique and comprehensive program that prepares interested executives for boardroom positions. The program is comprised of four components. The first is a toolkit that helps executives prepare their board bio and practice their pitch. The second component is corporate governance and the third is all about the network and coaching. Finally, the fourth component is promoting the executives for board opportunities.

“Last year, we helped with about 105, board search requests. Today, we’re already at 200, and will likely help with about 300 by the end of the year. We get requests for certain skillsets for a board position and we sort through our membership and give them as many qualified people and work with them to make sure that we can connect them to board talent.” 

The work achieved so far by the Latino Corporate Directors Association shows that Latino advancement is not only possible but necessary. By increasing Latinx visibility in the C-suite and boardroom, corporate America has no more excuses for excluding Latino and Latinas from the table.

Apple appoints first Latina ever to board of directors

Apple announced this month that Monica Lozano, president and CEO of College Futures Foundation, has been appointed as the eighth member to Apple’s board of directors. Lozano, of Mexican origin, is the first Latina to hold such a position at the global tech giant—a major first step toward greater diversity and inclusion in higher-level positions.

She brings with her a broad range of leadership experience, as well as a long track record as a champion for equity, opportunity, and representation.

Photo by Armand Valendez from Pexels

“A true leader and trailblazer” joins Apple’s Board of Directors

Monica Lozano, Apple

Monica Lozano, Latino Corporate Directors Association and Rockefeller Foundation Board of Directors (Photo credit Rockefeller Foundation)

Prior to joining College Futures Foundation, Lozano spent 30 years in media as editor and publisher of La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the US, helping shine a light on issues from infant mortality to the AIDS epidemic. She went on to become chairman and CEO of La Opinión’s parent company, ImpreMedia. Lozano continues to serve on the boards of Target Corporation and Bank of America Corporation.

She has been recognized for her leadership with awards from organizations like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, in her role as CEO of College Futures Foundation, Lozano has been a tireless advocate for expanding access to higher education, partnering with philanthropic organizations, state and local governments, and local communities to improve opportunities for low-income students and students of color. 

A co-founder of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, and a former chair of both the University of California Board of Regents and the board of directors of the Weingart Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, Lozano is also a former board member of The Walt Disney Company. 

“Monica has been a true leader and trailblazer in business, media, and an ever-widening circle of philanthropic efforts to realize a more equitable future — in our schools and in the lives of all people,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Her values and breadth of experience will help Apple continue to grow, to innovate, and to be a force for good in the lives of our teams, customers, and communities.”

As a business leader, public servant, and philanthropist, Lozano has made an indelible impact on companies and communities in the US and around the world,  and is sure to do the same at Apple. 

diversity and inclusion

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

A major step in the campaign for corporate diversity & inclusion

Lozano’s appointment to Apple’s board of directors comes after much work was done in 2020 by Latino Corporate Directors Associations’ (LCDA) and other organizations to push for more diversity in higher level positions at major companies. 

Lozano herself is also a LCDA member and the organization’s goal has been to increase the number of Latinos on corporate boards. According to LCDA’s Latino Board Tracker, currently 77% of Fortune 1000 companies lack a single Latino director on their board.

Other findings of LCDA and corporate data provider Equilar state that in California, where Latinos make up almost 40% of the population, they hold only 2.1% of board positions. 

To improve these indicators, the state of California passed Bill 979 in September 2020. This bill now requires public companies to include executives from underrepresented communities on their boards until December 2021.  

Since September, LCDA—along with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and UnidosUS—also launched the Latino Voices for Boardroom Equity campaign. The goal is for Latinos to hold 20% of board seats—roughly their share of the U.S. population.

You might be interested: Corporate executive Beth Marmolejos shares insights on being a Latina leader

“There is an enormous number of talented Latino candidates who can bring a lot of value [to the companies,” says Esther Aguilar, chief executive officer of the Latino Corporate Directors Association. 

Lozano’s appointment to Apple’s board of directors is a major step in diversity and inclusion, especially for Latinas in technology. Hopefully more corporations will look to the tech giant and follow their example. 

On joining Apple’s board, Lozano said: “I’ve always admired Apple’s commitment to the notion that technology, at its best, should empower all people to improve their lives and build a better world. I look forward to working with Tim, Art, and the other board members to help Apple carry those values forward and build on a rich and productive history.”