The Latino Leadership Gap: Why Corporate Boards Need More Diverse Voices  

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By Manny Corsino

During my two decades in executive search, I have seen immense change in the landscape of diversity within corporate boards to include people of color and women. However, it remains that Latinos’ board representation still falls behind the curve.  Despite their growing population and economic influence, Latinos have struggled to gain a foothold in the boardroom. This lack of representation is not only an issue of equity, but also a missed opportunity for companies seeking to innovate, connect with diverse markets, and foster inclusive decision-making. 

The Reality of Latino Underrepresentation 

The increase in the representation of women and people of color on corporate boards is a significant and positive step towards inclusivity and equity. It is a testament to the hard work and advocacy of many individuals and organizations pushing for diversity at the highest levels of corporate governance. However, the data paints a clear picture of the persistent underrepresentation of Latinos in corporate leadership. According to the Latino Corporate Directors Association, as of 2022, only 4.7% of Fortune 500 board seats are held by Latinos. This figure is especially concerning when we consider that the Latino population in the U.S. has grown significantly, reaching nearly 63 million in 2021, and projected to reach almost 119 million by 2060, comprising 28.6% of the total population. This demographic shift underscores the urgent need for companies to actively embrace and elevate Latino talent to the highest levels of leadership. 

According to data presented by the Latino Corporate Directors Association, we can see both current and projected future rates of representation of Latinos on Corporate Boards, and it is not expected to keep pace with the population growth of Latinos.

The Business Case for Latino Board Representation   

A diverse boardroom, particularly one that includes Latino voices, offers a wealth of benefits. Research consistently shows that companies with diverse leadership teams outperform their less diverse counterparts. A McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 36% more likely to have above-average profitability. Latino board members can bring unique perspectives, cultural insights, and an understanding of the growing Latino consumer market. Hispanic American consumers were the largest minority market with an estimated $1.9 trillion in buying power in 2020, with a growth rate of 87% over the past 10 years. This diverse knowledge base can lead to better decision-making, innovation, and a stronger connection with a broader customer base. 

A Look Ahead: The Future of Latino Representation 

The future of Latinos in boardrooms holds significant promise but is contingent on concerted efforts to dismantle longstanding barriers and actively promote diversity and inclusion. While recent increases in Latino representation on Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 boards are encouraging, there is still a long way to go to achieve equitable representation. Companies can help with these three proactive measures. 

  • Broaden Recruitment Strategies and Rethink Board Requirements: Companies should look beyond traditional networks and tap into Latino professional organizations, leadership programs, and community groups. Partnering with executive search firms specializing in diverse talent can also yield promising candidates. Rethinking board requirements to include diverse skill sets, such as experience in Latino markets or community engagement, can open doors for qualified Latino professionals who may not fit the traditional mold but possess valuable expertise. 
  • Cultivate a Robust Pipeline and Foster Inclusive Culture: Companies should invest in mentorship and sponsorship programs to nurture Latino talent within their organizations and prepare them for board positions. Providing board member education on the importance of Latino representation and the unique perspectives they offer can also foster a more inclusive board culture. Addressing unconscious biases in the selection process and creating a welcoming environment for Latino board members is crucial for ensuring their voices are heard and valued. 
  • Set Tangible Goals and Track Progress: To ensure accountability and drive meaningful change, companies should set measurable goals for Latino representation on their boards. Regularly tracking progress and making necessary adjustments to strategies can help companies stay on course towards achieving equitable representation. 

The Role of the Search Industry and a Collective Effort 

Executive search firms play a pivotal role in promoting diversity on corporate boards. Calibre One is known for promoting diverse environments and fostering inclusivity, not only in-house but also for our clients. By proactively seeking out qualified Latino candidates and presenting them to their clients, search firms can help break down barriers and increase representation. 95% of all our shortlists include at least one diverse candidate, and over 42% of our placed candidates are diverse. This is not just about fairness; it’s about harnessing the power of diverse perspectives to drive innovation, growth, and success in the ever-evolving business landscape. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion in their search processes, executive search firms can help companies create boards that truly reflect the rich tapestry of talent available.