The Latino Corporate Directors Association, A Commitment to Board Diversity

By Gloria Romano-Barrera

Esther Aguilera, CEO, Latino Corporate Directors Association.

Esther Aguilera, CEO of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), was propelled to a leadership role at 27-years-old. Working at the U.S. Capitol as the executive director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the early 1990s allowed Aguilera to be a resource for the Latino community serving as an advocate and liaison to members of congress and the community.

“As an immigrant from Mexico, at the age of four, my humble parents and upbringing could not have prepared me for this and future leadership roles, but I learned from them the value of diligence and hard work, as it took long hours to respond to the many demands,” she shares. “I have always been driven to make impact and progress, and have been blessed to assume multiple leadership roles that have allowed me to work with and learn from leaders and mentors.”

Today as the CEO of LCDA, she continues to do that and more. Committed to board diversity, governance excellence and advancing the next wave of Latino directors, Aguilera and her team are focused on targeted advocacy, strategic partnerships, and engagements to open more opportunities for Latinos to serve in the boardroom.

The Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) is the only national association of U.S. Latino corporate board members that serve on publicly traded and large private company boards, as well as C-Suite level and board-qualified executives.

Founded by a small group of Latino directors, with assistance from the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) and an early major sponsor, Toyota, the LCDA is at the forefront in advancing positive trends in Latino corporate board placement.

With the collective efforts of their board, membership, sponsors, and President & CEO, the LCDA has received over a million dollars in annual fundraising, a board-ready institute, placement of Latino directors and extensive partnerships with boards, companies, institutional investors, universities, private equity, search firms and others.

2016 LCDA Convening, Board with then-President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Meg Whitman.

“We have built a community that is committed to board diversity, governance excellence and advancing the next wave of Latino directors,” Aguilera shares. “The LCDA has set an ambitious plan to increase the number of Latinos on coveted board seat positions. As a significant resource at the forefront of advancing trends and moving the needle on Latino corporate board representation we are showcasing and promoting the talent pool for placement on corporate boards.”

Although encouraging trends in the boardroom for Hispanic executives are visible, data analyzed by ISS Analytics revealed that Latinos hold 1.7 percent of the roughly 21,000 director seats of the Russell 3000 Index companies. The analysis found that about 18 percent are women and 3.2 percent are black, but Latinos lag far behind in representation at 1.7 percent.

2016 LCDA Convening, LCDA Board and Members with Meg Whitman, then President and CEO, HP Enterprise.

“LCDA is continuously moving the needle to positively impact these numbers,” says Aguilera. “We referred candidates to more than 45 board searches, up from five in 2017, and influenced the placement of 14 members and associate members on boards. Also, for the first time, we saw greater consideration of Latino and diverse candidates for the boardroom by executive search firms.”

In 2016, LCDA’s inaugural convening was hosted by, then President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Meg Whitman, in Palo Alto, California. The support that LCDA received set the tone for future growth, and throughout the years, LCDA’s annual convening has grown to be one of the most prominent gatherings of executives at the highest levels of corporate leadership.

In November 2017, the LCDA’s Latino Corporate Directors Education Foundation (LCDEF) launched its BoardReady Institute (BRI) program in collaboration with Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance and through significant investment by the KPMG Board Leadership Center. This comprehensive, two-year program is designed to identify, prepare, and position highly credentialed Latino executives and national leaders for corporate board service.

“I am encouraged by the work that we’re doing,” Aguilera states. “Investment in the Hispanic community has guided my entire career since starting with NCLR, my mission has been to elevate the talents and contributions of Latinos in all walks of life, especially at the highest levels of leadership; whether it be in Congress, government, or the private sector.”

For Aguilera, this is not just a Latino imperative. “It is a population where the success of the U.S. depends on a robust, growing, and successful Latino community because our numbers in the workforce and purchasing power are significant today and for growing a stronger future for the U.S,” she shares.

In addition to LCDA’s core work in 2019, Aguilera along with her team are working on efforts to grow demand by engaging consumer-facing companies and others with board seat opportunities, leveraging relationships with institutional investors for a diversity push that is inclusive of Latino and ethnic/racial talent, and continuing to work proactively with search firm and private-equity partners.

“LCDA is at an inflection point–a time when it is poised for next-level growth with the momentum for boardroom diversity building in significant ways,” states Aguilera. “Our 4th Annual Convening is set in New York City with Bank of America, Chairman and CEO, Brian Moynihan, as the featured speaker. LCDA is proud to receive support from high-caliber influencers for this invitation-only convening. While our success is still in its infancy, we expect to see continued progress.” For more information visit: www.latinocorporatedirectors.org

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