Cari Dominguez, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) urged Hispanic women to step “beyond the comfort zone” of functional competencies and take calculated risks in pursuing leadership positions, in remarks made at a ground-breaking roundtable discussion, “The Future for Hispanic Women on Wall Street.”
Sponsored jointly by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – Security Industry Committee (SEC-SIC), and the Securities Industry Association (SIA), the forum brought together thought leaders from government and non-profit organizations specializing in the specific challenges facing Hispanic women professionals in the financial services arena.
Chair Dominguez headed the discussion joined by Roel C. Campos, SEC Commissioner; Anna Escobedo Cabral, President and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR); Pamela I. Faber, Vice President and Managing Director, Human Resources, at the SIA, and moderated by Sally Hernandez-Pinero, an attorney in private practice who serves on the Boards of Con Edison and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Dominguez challenged Latina women to think beyond their current roles and to network in non-traditional ways. “Once you are at the point where you are recognized for your accomplishments, it will be your qualities related to leadership skills and interpersonal skills that will set you apart,” she said.
Merrill Lynch conducted instant polling to glean a profile of the audience and to identify key issues of importance to attendees. Sixty percent of the audience was Hispanic women (44%) or women of color (16%); three quarters worked on Wall Street, with another 13% in corporations; and 41% had over 20 years of experience, with another 32% having at least ten years of experience.
The topics covered by the roundtable included opportunities and barriers for Hispanic women, and what companies can do to attract and retain them.
“The success of our business depends on the success of the individuals who work with us,” said Dr. Westina Matthews Shatteen, First Vice President at Merrill Lynch and organizer of the event. “We simply cannot meet our corporate goals without the best and the brightest wherever they come from. Diversity isn’t important just because it’s good human relations. It’s important because it’s good business,” she added.
The Ninth Largest Economy in the World
Dr. Matthews Shatteen cited statistics provided by HACR showing a lack of progress for Hispanic women in the upper reaches of Corporate America.
“Hispanics represent nearly 14% of the U.S. population, with a purchasing power of $630 billion representing the 9th largest economy in the world, larger than the GNP of Brazil, Spain or Mexico. Yet Hispanics comprise only 1.8% of all board members in Fortune 1,000 companies. And our Hispanic women are less than 15% of that small number,” she said.
Isolation and Lack of Mentors are Barriers
Among the top two areas of concern in the audience were a sense of corporate isolation, and a lack of sponsors or mentors.
Anna Escobedo Cabral pointed to statistics explaining these results. “The shocking fact is that Latinas make up only .08% of executive officers across the country. As such Latinas must seek out mentors who are not of the same background. It is important to look at your mentor as an important strategy rather than as one individual. Consider a variety of people who could mentor you – above your level or among your peers.”
Pam Faber offered another strategy, “Reverse Mentoring,” in which a junior person takes the role of mentor, and the senior executive is mentee. This provides the senior person with fresh insights into his or her management style.
Becoming a Profit Center
Roel Campos took yet another approach, calling upon Latina women to find ways to create a profit center for the company in which they work. “Set up a division or product line that generates a revenue stream. Once you have built a money making operation, you can delegate management and find ways to achieve work/life balance.”
When asked how companies can attract and retain Hispanic professionals, Campos challenged companies to make diversity a priority, “A company needs to have numbers and goals set. There needs to be a commitment from the CEO.”
Pam Faber added, “While companies do need to improve their infrastructure supporting diversity, at the same time we all need to take responsibility for our destinies. Step up to the plate and figure out what you need to do to succeed. Look at job postings. See where the opportunities are, where your experience fits, and volunteer to fill in the gaps.”
The event was also sponsored by media partners Hispanic Business, Latina Style, El Diario/La Prensa, Working Mother and Women’s Business New York.