Corporate Diversity Lacks Latino Leaders: How Your Marketplace Value Will Suffer

Research in corporate diversity shows that too few Latinos have a seat at the table. Is corporations’ ability to connect to the marketplace at stake

Carlos Orta’s job is to convince corporate America of the need for Latino leaders. That should be easy, given the demographics of the United States, yet corporate diversity still remains a challenge. Why

The Need for Corporate Diversity

Orta is the president and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), with a combined background of politics, corporate-relationship building and community outreach. He was a featured speaker at DiversityInc’s 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 event.

Orta first heard of the nonprofit in 1998 while working at Ford Motor Company, No. 47 in The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. There he was responsible for managing the company’s relationships with the Latino community and other philanthropic outreach responsibilities to improve efforts in corporate diversity. He assumed similar responsibilities at Anheuser-Busch, where he became director of community outreach for the Western Region.

His earlier career had been in politics, where he was executive director of Miami-Dade County’s Legislative Delegation, a bipartisan group with 27 members. This is where he learned valuable lessons about how to succeed in business.

“I was able to see firsthand how things really worked. I understood the role of the private sector, the public sector and the not-for-profit sector, and that all three have to work together for society to move forward,” Orta recalls.

HACR was a good fit for him. Orta says, “I truly believe in the organization’s mission and the potential it has” for corporate diversity.

HACR is a national advocacy organization that represents 16 Latino organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico. These include ASPIRA, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, MANA and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. Currently, HACR Coalition Members collaborate with more than 1,500 affiliate community-based organizationsincluding more than 450 colleges and universities and 400 publications.

In 2012, HACR’S corporate membership will reach an all-time high of 52, including 20 Fortune 50 companies, which nearly doubles the size of its membership since 2006.

Good Enough to Buy and Manage

HACR’s mission is to advance the inclusion of Latinos in corporate America at levels commensurate with the demographic’s economic contributions. The goal is to achieve “market reciprocity,” which Orta asserts as a key argument for the business case for corporate diversity.

“If as a community we are contributing X dollars to a company’s bottom line, we believe that the company has a commitment to give back to the community at a similar level,” says Orta. “If we are good enough to buy from you, then we are good enough to serve on your boards.”

Latino representation among the upper levels of management is low nationally compared with their 16.3 percent population share. HACR’s 2011 Corporate Inclusion Index shows a decrease of Latinos in the C-suite from 8 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2011.Orta says these gaps mean companies are losing out on key benefits. “Census data says there are] 50 million Hispanic consumers and a trillion dollars in buying power,” he says. “It’s about the business opportunities here in the United States. It’s sitting right here in your backyard.”

The Latino demographic also is extremely brand loyal, adds Orta, equating to more value for companies that hire Latinos and make a viable connection with these communities. ReadThe DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Latinosfor a list of companies who excel in this area of corporate diversity.

“[Latinos] understand the [Latino] market better than anyone else. You understand what resonates with that particular consumer and understand the products that do as well,” he says.

Corporate Diversity: Optimizing on Growth

To capitalize on this growth opportunity, HACR currently runs three programs on a variety of levels to foster Latino inclusion and diversity among corporate America.

The HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers aims to gain recognition for young Latino employees who demonstrate excellence and leadership skills. The HACR Corporate Directors Summit and HACR Corporate Executives Forum serve as a resource for Fortune 500 board members and HACR corporate company executives to share insights, challenges and strategies.

Orta is particularly excited about HACR’s recent projects to promote awareness for Latino inclusionits first documentary. “Insider Game” features firsthand interviews with executives about the lack of Latinos in corporate leadership.

“The community really is starting to understand political power, the influence it has with organizations. It’s a big responsibility but there’s a lot of potential,” says Orta.

Most importantly, Orta stresses that “HACR is a team, in who we are and why we exist.” It’s a philosophy for collaboration that he learned during his early days working in politics.

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