C-suite failing to reflect the rising US Hispanic population

It's no surprise the number of Hispanics living in the US is expected to continue growing rapidly.

It's no surprise the number of Hispanics living in the US is expected to continue growing rapidly. Last year's Census revealed that approximately 50.5 million Hispanics call the US their home, accounting for more than 16% of the country's population, the fastest-growing group of Americans.

But corporate America is severely lagging this trend when it comes to Hispanic inclusion in the C-suite, corporate boards, and senior leadership teams.

Numbers don't add up
Hispanic representation in the C-suite actually fell from 8% in 2010 to 7% in 2011, according to the latest inclusion index from the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, released last December. Fifty-two Fortune 100 companies participated in the survey, including IBM and Johnson & Johnson.

While major companies have done a great job at creating chief diversity officer roles and implementing inclusion programs over the last few decades, the association's CEO Carlos Orta says the challenge is communicating to companies and the public how drastically low Hispanic inclusion rates are in relationship to population growth trends.

To combat this, last fall the association rolled out "Advocate," a PR campaign highlighting the importance of Hispanic inclusion at corporations in employment, procurement, philanthropy, and governance.

"We've got great numbers in terms of population, buying power, and political clout, but inclusion numbers don't match up," Orta tells PRWeek. "That really hasn't changed in the last 10 to 20 years. The numbers may go up here and there, but we have not doubled as you would think."

Hispanics were the lowest represented minority group on corporate boards in 2010, comprising approximately 3.8% of seats at Fortune 500 companies, with only 2.9% representation in the C-suite, according to a survey conducted by the Alliance for Board Diversity. Meanwhile, US Census data revealed Latinos under the age of 18 grew nearly 40%, the highest percentage compared to whites, blacks, and Asians.

Diversity by the numbers

• Representation of Hispanics in the C-Suite decreased from 8% in 2010 to 7% in 2011
• Procurement depart- ments spent 1.5% more dollars hiring Hispanic-owned businesses in 2011 compared to 2010
• Hispanic representation on corporate boards rose from 6.46% in 2010 to 8.33% in 2011
• In terms of philanthropic investment, companies contributed less than 3% of total dollars to Hispanic communities

Source: Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility Corporate Inclusion Index, released December 21, 2011

At AT&T Mobility, Ralph de la Vega has been a fixture as president and CEO since 2007. Overall, Hispanics represent 5% of its officer-level team, says Debbie Storey, the wireless provider's SVP of talent development and chief diversity officer. The company's 12-member board of directors also includes one person of Hispanic origin, Jaime Chico Pardo.

Storey says parent corporation AT&T's success in creating a diverse workforce, including Hispanics at senior levels, is due to strong buy-in and commitment from chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.

"He passionately believes in it," she notes. "He doesn't just feel it's the right thing to do, but that it's critical to building a culture of innovation and growth, as well as to compete in an increasingly global economy. It's very important to us and takes deliberate top- down commitment. It also takes measurement and holding people accountable."

Ford Motor Company has a similar approach. Last year it created a communications team dedicated to both internal and external multicultural efforts in the US. It is headed by Alvaro Cabal, multicultural communications manager, who reports to Ford's executive director of communications Jennifer Flake.

"We needed people inside Ford that understand the Hispanic community and other minorities," says Cabal. "There's a business need, as well as a corporate responsibility. You must understand a community to have a solid business case in that community."

Impacted by economy
Orta notes the struggling economy has resulted in many companies placing their diversity inclusion plans for minorities and women on the backburner.

"Diversity inclusion isn't at the forefront the way it was in 2007 and 2008," he explains. "Companies are in survival mode, [even though] they understand this is important because it's about attracting that talent. If you're a woman and there's nobody in senior leadership at your company that's a woman, you won't be successful. That's what's important about diversity inclusion - it's all about making sure a company represents its consumer base."

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