Latina Board Members Paving the Way

By Gloria Romano-Barrera

Considering that Latinos in the U.S. are the main economic forces, diversifying corporate boards fosters greater inclusion policies, improving business, innovation, and employment retention. Latinas, however, hold 1 percent of the board seats on the 2020 Fortune 500, the lowest percentage of any racial or ethnic group, according to the Latino Board Monitor. Some progress has been made to expand the number of Latinas on corporate boards, but more work has to be done. “Latinas are driving business formation and growth in corporate America. Yet, Latinas remain invisible in positions of power–representing a mere 1 percent of Fortune 500 company board seats, the least represented of any gender or ethnic group,” shares Esther Aguilera, President and CEO, Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA). Today, LCDA is increasing the visibility of Latinas in influential roles. LCDA members occupy more than 30 percent of the board seats held by Latinos in Fortune 1000 companies. More than 275 members hold seats on publicly traded and privately held boards. “Through increased visibility of highly qualified and accomplished Latinos, corporate America has no more excuses for excluding Latinas from the table.” Sandra Campos, Anne Alonzo, Carmen Bauza, Maria Alonso, and Yolanda Macias are only a few Latinas working to ensure Latinas are taking a seat at the table. From mentoring to opening doors to other Latinas, they are making an impact that will have an everlasting effect.

Sandra Campos, Board Member, Big Lots 3x CEO, 2x entrepreneur, and advisor

“Latinas’ cultural experiences provide diversity of thought and provide visibility to a market demographic that is growing exponentially,” shares Sandra Campos, Board Member, 3x CEO, 2x entrepreneur, and advisor. “As consumers, the Latino spending power is greater than ever, and we need boardroom representation that understands what impacts this cohort.”

Throughout her career, Campos has built global lifestyle brands and has been instrumental in turnarounds, digital transformations, innovative marketing campaigns, and international expansion. As a technology-focused operator, she recently joined the board of Fabric, a modular and headless commerce solution, Big Lots value retailer on the NYSE. She led a SaaS based supply chain solutions company that focused on modernizing a retailer’s back-end tech stack. Her retail career has included C-Suite roles as the former CEO of Diane Von Furstenberg, President of a portfolio of contemporary brands including Juicy Couture, Bebe, BCBG.and Herve Leger, and President of O Oscar (an Oscar de la Renta division).

As a board member at Big Lots, Campos has focused on areas of strength, including consumer marketing. supply chain, and digital. She has also begun to establish relationships with the C-Suite leaders within these functions to help provide support and innovative thinking.

“I love building businesses and brands, but I am most passionate about the consumer,” she shares. “With my experience and insights, I know my value added to organizations is beneficial for their leadership, and I enjoy seeing the execution result in strong performance and growth.”

Campos believes women are highly valuable to any board, and Latinas are no different. Increasing Latina representation at any level requires everyone to make introductions and to open networks.

“Latinas need to feel valued from the beginning of the search process and once they’re in the organization,” she shares. “You cannot be what you don’t see” is a great quote, but I consider myself to be part of the solution through my ability to help others.”

Preparing the next generation is important to success in any board. From leadership qualities to skills to excel, Latinas have the opportunity to have a seat at the table if they are willing to learn and listen.

“It’s a learning process, but organizations and communities that provide discussion, education, and visibility into these roles are going to gain more traction. You cannot learn what you don’t know exists, so it starts there,” she shares. “Being willing to learn and to listen. Listening is a great skill that oftentimes is underrated as an operator, but once you get to the board level, it’s even more critical. Understanding what is being said and what isn’t being said- as well as interpreting where your questions and suggestions can help move the team in the right direction.”

Anne L. Alonzo
Board Member
Feeding America

“Proactively and intentionally mentoring and positioning Latinas for board service is key to increasing Latinas on board,” shares Anne L. Alonzo. “A key “go to” organization in this effort is the Latino Corporate Director’s Association (LCDA), whose mission is to support and increase the number of U.S. Latinos on corporate boards. They’re doing a fantastic job and making a real impact! Other ally organizations like the Women’s Business Collaborative, 50/50 Women on Boards, Beyond Board, NACD, Goldman Sachs, The Chicago Network, Diligent, In Touch Network, Equilar—to name a few—are increasingly advocating, developing, and positioning diverse women, including Latinas, into board service.”

As an Independent Board Director and Audit Committee member at Potlatch Deltic, a leading timber and wood products company, Alonzo recently joined the Board of Directors of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. She also serves in an advisory capacity to firms focused on climate change and regenerative agriculture impact investing.

Most recently, Alonzo served as a C Suite Executive as Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer at Corteva Agriscience.

Alonzo believes if Latinas are accomplished, ready and prepared, they deserve to ascend to the highest levels of their organizations and be able to contribute by providing their unique voices and value. As to corporate boards, she believes the preparation should be occurring ­­throughout a Latinas’ career, especially as she traverses through the corporate pipeline and assumes key/greater responsibilities—hopefully, all the way to the C Suite.

“The Latino community is growing exponentially across the U.S. Latinas, in particular, have a lot to offer, and we need to do all we can to support, encourage, mentor, and position Latinas, at the highest levels, to assume their rightful board leadership roles,” she shares. “Courage, resilience, and being conscientious and prepared are key to being a successful board member.”

Carmen R. Bauza
Board Member

“The current strategies for board compositions are changing due to the increasing pressure for the diversification of corporate oversight,” shares Carmen Bauza, a Global Retail Executive and seasoned board member. “I am a firm believer in the richness that different perspectives can bring to the discussions in the boardroom and shape better ideas. Having Latinas on boards is a competitive advantage, and Corporate America is starting to realize that by gaining insights from individuals that were not represented on their boards is key to the future success of any business.”

Bauza is an accomplished business advisor helping companies unlock value by identifying growth opportunities and improving consumer experiences through unified commerce go-to-market strategies, technology and digitization. She has significant experience in product creation, branding, and manufacturing, operations, board governance, DEI, and women’s leadership.

With 10 years of public and private board experience. Bauza is a director of Claire’s Stores, a global brand powerhouse of fashion jewelry, accessories, and piercing services where she serves on the Nominating, Governance and ESG Committees, a director of Destination XL Group (NASDAQ:DXLG) the largest specialty retailer of big & tall men’s clothing where she serves on the Nominating, Governance and Cyber Security Committees, and Zumiez (NASDAQ: ZUMZ) a leading lifestyle specialty retailer of apparel, footwear, accessories and hardgoods for young men and women where she serves on the Audit, Nominating and Governance Committees.

Bauza’s role is to effectively educate the board in her areas of expertise, thus allowing the board to make decisions collectively. “I bring broad thinking big picture expertise helping chart the company’s long-term path forward,” she shares. “Directorship positions are incredibly rewarding. They allow me the opportunity to exercise my accumulated expertise while providing a stimulating forum to build on drawing from the expertise of others in the boardroom. As importantly, I want to help open doors for other Women on their board journey. I am in a position to help make inroads for Latinas on boards, and I am going to leverage that to help others. There is an immense wealth of talent ready and willing to serve on corporate boards — if only given a chance. As Latinas, we need to focus on our peers and be committed to each other. At any given time when I get presented a board opportunity I have a list of names of extraordinary women, including Latinas, who I feel confident recommending.”

Bauza also serves as an Advisor to RoundTable Healthcare Partners, an operating-oriented private equity firm focused exclusively on the healthcare industry, and an advisor to early-stage CPG companies and luxury retail. In addition, she is a Board Trustee of Seton Hill University and serves on the Finance and the University Relations & Development Committees. Previous board memberships include Walmart de Mexico (WMMVY), a $30B division of Walmart Inc.

“As a board member you have to work hard and put in the hours outside the boardroom to remain current and gain the knowledge necessary to continue bringing relevant and provocative thoughts to the boardroom,” she shares. “Build and cultivate your relationships, the people in your network are your biggest allies.”

Yolanda Macias
Board of Directors
Skechers USA, Inc.

The under-representation of Latinas on corporate boards is an issue for all stakeholders including investors, employees, and customers of the company’s product(s) and services,” shares Yolanda Macias, Chief Content Officer and Head of Sales and Marketing at Cinedigm. “It is a responsibility for all to ensure that the board is inclusive of those they are representing. We bring an important and critical perspective to board discussions, and it is my hope that with time existing Latina board directors are paving the way for other Latinas to serve.”

With over 25 years of entertainment distribution experience, including executive positions at Vivendi/Universal, DIRECTV and The Walt Disney Company, Macías has a proven track record of developing and building profitable and sustainable businesses such as the Spanish language DIRECTV subscription service and Vivendi Entertainment which was sold to Gaiam Inc. At Cindedigm she is responsible for acquiring global content rights for all distribution and streaming platforms and oversees all third-party sales and marketing. She joined Cinedigm in 2013 and has held leadership positions managing three departments and monetizing over 46,000 films and television series.

Macias believes Latinas serving on corporate boards will provide a unique point of view and value to the broader constituents. Collectively with the experience and knowledge, she believes Latinas will contribute and effectively serve as a valuable director.

Today she is optimistic that the contributions will be recognized, and other public companies will seek diverse thought.

“I believe my 30-year operating experience in digital media and distribution is unique among the other board members and relevant to the branded footwear business,” she shares. “I bring a fresh perspective to strategic and tactical considerations. We are a community with a multitude of talents. I serve to find and offer opportunities to unlock those talents. I plan to expand my service on corporate boards to offer my point of view and voice in the board room and hopefully to inspire other Latinas to serve on boards.”

Macías received her MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her B.S. degree in Finance from California State University, Northridge. She is a member of Chief a private network designed for senior women leaders to strengthen their leadership journey. She encourages, validates and motivates young Latinas to recognize and affirm their talents. Once they harness their talents, she supports them to grow into confident and productive executives. Some important qualities to have to be a successful board member include preparedness, analytical mindset and offering thoughtful questions or suggestions.

“Trust your intuition and explore your unique superpower,” she shares. “Leverage your talents to find your path that fulfills you and provides leadership and value in the workplace.”

Maria C. Alonso
Senior South Florida Executive and Civic Leader Independent
Board Director of U.S. Century Bank

“Companies, big and small, invest incredible amounts of time and money to understand and appeal to customer segments,” shares Maria C. Alonso, Independent Board Director of U.S. Century Bank. “Latinas as a segment are incredibly desirable – high growth, part of country’s largest minority, growing purchasing power and according to the US Census, have surpassed their male counterparts in terms of educational attainment and presence among professional occupations. What company wouldn’t want to appeal to them? What company wouldn’t want to have their voice, insights, experience and professional expertise as part of their boards?”

Alonso is a senior executive and community leader with a rich history of civic involvement in South Florida. The immediate past president and CEO of United Way Miami and former corporate social responsibility manager at Bank of America, she has an uncanny ability to identify, connect, and leverage opportunities that benefit the community as well as participating partners and organizations.

Over the span of her career, Alonso has had the privilege to serve on the boards of key organizations and nonprofits in my community – organizations whose focus is to create opportunities for all through education and financial mobility, invest in small businesses, strengthen the nation’s economy, and create an equitable community overall. While she continues to serve on a few of these nonprofit boards, earlier this year she was elected to serve on a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: USCB), one of Florida’s largest community banks. The role is one of governance, an important distinction from the role of management.

“We each bring to the table our diverse experiences, knowledge and relationships and networks to bear towards achieving the organization’s strategic goals and meeting the needs of our diverse stakeholders,” she shares.

Alonso is hopeful that efforts from organizations such as LCDA, HACR, and more broadly Athena Alliance among others in partnership with search firms and companies authentically committed to diversity and inclusion will lead to real change. She also believes change also has to come from us as Latinas too.

“We need to need to advocate for ourselves within our workplace and express our interests and willingness to take assignments others might not,” she shares. “We need to expand our networks to include allies and mentors that can help in our quest for representation. We need to invest in ensuring we have mentors and allies that can help guide their professional and leadership development. I also think there is an important role for search firms as well as gender and ethnic-focused organizations to continue to play in developing our future board talent. Having embarked on my corporate board journey recently, I can confirm it is its own world with dedicated, membership organizations, a expansive continuing education offerings to hone critical skills needed on boards and even professional certifications to further distinguish yourself from other candidates.”