Esther Aguilera: Latino representation on corporate boards
Esther Aguilera called for more organization among Latino corporate leaders at the 3rd Annual Latino Corporate Directors Association convention in Chicago on Oct. 18-19.
Esther Aguilera is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) and she said that while there are several factors for the Latino community’s under-representation on corporate boards, a lack of organization on behalf of the community is one.
“You can’t just point the fingers elsewhere,” she said.
She noted that while women and other minorities are organized, the Latino community is not.
“Women have been very organized,” Aguilera said, “That’s why LCDA was formed.”
She said it was formed to provide the organization necessary for Latinos to get a foot in the door into corporate boardrooms.
A recent study found that only 2.4 percent of corporate boards were made up of Latinos in 2017.
Aguilera said the dynamic has made the environment difficult.
“A network of directors made a lot of decisions on boards.” she continued. “There was a lot of mystery about how you get on boards.”
She further noted: “The hurdle that we have, is the perception that they don’t know any Latinos. They don’t [know] that there are qualified Latinos to be on boards.”
“In the past, boards would go around the room (and ask for referrals,” Aguilera said of when there was an opening on a board.
Since boards were mostly made up of white males, most if not all of the referrals were also white males.
In the last two years, she said some change has been achieved, as several high-profile CEOs have made corporate board diversity a priority.
She singled out Meg Whitman, the CEO of HP.
Whitman hosted the 1st Annual LCDA Conference in 2016, and “talked about the point when HP separated into two companies. She had an opportunity two create two diverse boards,” Aguilera said.
She said pension funds, private equity, and other activist shareholders have also recently placed more of an emphasis on corporate board diversity.
“The search firms have come a long way from two years ago,” Aguilera said. “When they’re missing out on the some of the best talent, it is to their detriment.”
She said that diverse corporate boards help companies think smarter.
“A diverse board is thinking smarter around blind spots,” Aguilera said.
She said that LCDA recently got a call from a Fortune 250 construction firm, which was looking for a Latino to serve on the board.
One of the current board members had heard of LCDA and the contact was made.
“In construction, we (Latinos) are a huge customer,” Aguilera said. “We helped to identify (for the company) some qualified candidates.”
Aguilera concluded with a hopeful view of the future: “We have taken this space from ground zero to two hundred miles per hour.”