“You can’t be what you can’t see.” The voice of Nina Vaca, founder and CEO of IT solutions powerhouse Pinnacle Group, reverberated through the auditorium. This was the voice of an Hispanic woman, an immigrant with humble beginnings, who started Pinnacle Group on the floor of her apartment and built it into an industry titan.
More than 200 leaders from companies spanning all sectors and from across the nation were present last week at the We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Leadership Summit: Dallas, listening to Nina and others tell their stories and discuss solutions for a more inclusive America. What became painstakingly clear listening to these stories: Latinos have been left far behind other ethnic groups in our society.
Vaca, among many other Latino leaders present, is a rarity. The lack of representation across corporate America has left a vacuum, which at present, has been filled with heightened discrimination and pervasive stereotypes. The gaps are truly striking. For example, as of 2018, a meager 3.8 percent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats were held by Latino/as, compared to African Americans at 8.6 percent and Caucasians at 83.9 percent.
The community has not been blind to this discrepancy. Back in 2017, the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey representing more than 33,000 respondents across 27 markets, showed that 56 percent of the Hispanic community believe that the system is failing them – a conspicuous eight-point increase from 2016.
Over the last few years, Edelman Trust Barometer research has seen the idea of “trust at work” emerge and become essential for corporate strategy. So where do Latinos fall? More than any other non-white ethnic group, Latinos trust businesses the most, over NGOs, government and media.
This new age of trust requires a new employer-employee contract, one in which employers are tasked with leading on change and addressing concerns. As Latinos now account for the vast majority of growth in the U.S. workforce and are driving consumption at unprecedented rates – the U.S. Latino gross domestic product (GDP) represented a whopping $2.13 trillion in 2015 – the time is now for equal representation.
Last week, bellwether companies AT&T, PepsiCo, and Yum! Brands took a stand to begin to change the dialogue and dynamics and joined 94 other companies in a pledge to hire, promote and retain Hispanics in the workplace. These companies are champions, taking the first step to recognize the power and significance of this community.
Latinos may have been historically left behind, but the economic data and an increase in unifying convenings such as the Hispanic Leadership Summit: Dallas paint a clear picture: Key employees and leaders of tomorrow will include Latinos. Vaca and others are working tirelessly so that today’s Latino youth can both look up and be inspired by Latino leaders at the top, as well as be equipped with the skills needed to become the leaders of tomorrow.
CEOs and corporate America: This is your signal. Now, more than ever, American business needs to step up, recognize the economic and social value of this community, and ignite change for a more inclusive society.
Jorge Ortega is general manager, Southwest.
Isabella Carrillo is an account supervisor, Dallas.