Focus on Black Directors Has Latinos Asking: What About Us?

Concerned by the recent focus on one minority, a coalition launches its own campaign: #DiversityIncludesLatinos.

Bloomberg | September 18, 2020

The Bloomberg article, “Focus on Black Directors Has Latinos Asking: What About Us?" quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Rusty O'Kelley on why board seats ar​e so hard to come by and how existing boards can improve their diversity efforts. The article is excerpted below.​

Roel Campos has​ a message for the dozens of companies pledging to add a Black director: Don't forget that corporate boards are even further behind in hiring Latino members.​

Latinos make up less than 4% of Fortune 500 board seats, according to Campos, the chairman of the 208-member Latino Corporate Directors Association. That's less than half of those held by African Americans, even though Latinos make up a larger share of the U.S. population. The Latino Voices for Boardroom Equity campaign, an initiative by the association and other groups launched Friday, aims to triple Latinos' share of board seats by 2023.

The racial makeup of corporate boards has come under scrutiny following nationwide protests after the police killing of George Floyd. Last week, big names like Zillow Group Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Merck & Co. publicly committed to getting more Black directors on their boards or elsewhere. The new group led by Campos and other community leaders aims to ensure Latin executives don't get ignored when the rare seat opens up. It will use the hashtag #DiversityIncludesLatinos and will call out large companies that do not have a Latino director.

The tension among under-represented groups reflects, in part, how rarely board seats come open, said Rusty O'Kelley, co-lead of the board and CEO advisory practice for executive recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates. If there are only a few hundred seats changing hands in a given year, there are not enough opportunities to bring on new members to meet the competing requirements, O'Kelley said, adding that few boards have term limits or mandatory retirement ages.

Some boards, especially in the last six months, have chosen to add a seat when they find a good candidate from an under-represented group, rather than wait for an opening or force out a director. O'Kelley also said that boards can help their diversity efforts by letting go of the idea that new directors need to be former CEOs, a job that few minority executives have attained.

“There is plenty of outstanding, diverse talent," O'Kelley said, but there's a shortage in director turnover. “If there's only one board search a year, that creates very few opportunities."

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Focus on Black Directors Has Latinos Asking: What About Us?