Celebrating 50 Years Sacramento Hispanic Chamber - Page 16


Latinas in the Boardroom

In 2018 , California became the first state to require publicly traded companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019 and 20 percent female representation on corporate boards by 2021 . “ The state requirement allows for real conversation about equity and inclusion and to be intentional on meeting representation goals ,” says Cathy Rodriguez Aguirre , president and CEO of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce . “ This includes being intentional about having Latinas and all women of color represented .”
Currently , Latinas represent a very small percentage of corporate board members — Rodriguez Aguirre estimates it at less than five percent . “ We have a long way to go ,” she says , noting that the SACHCC founded the Latina Estrella Awards six years ago to increase the visibility of Latina leadership and inspire upcoming generations of women .
“ Corporate director candidates need the right experience and skill set and there ’ s growing interest in diversity on corporate boards ,” says attorney Melinda Guzman , who served as chairman of the SACHCC board in 1997 and the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce board from 2001 to 2005 — the only woman to ever hold that position . She has also served as a trustee for the California State University system , a member of the Board of Governors for California Community Colleges , and as an independent director for a publicly traded telecom company , among other roles .
“ California ’ s new legislation encourages recruitment and retention of diverse directors ,” says Guzman , “ but most corporate boards have no director term limits , so it would take implementing term limits or increasing board size to make a meaningful opportunity to bring in new directors . That ’ s a huge barrier unless corporate boards vote to expand the number of directors and take aggressive steps to recruit .”
Guzman believes there are exceptional candidates out there . She notes that most corporate boards look for people who have other corporate board experience or have held C-suite positions . “ There may be a shortage of Hispanic women with board experience , but there are ( Latina ) C-level executives with relevant experience ... that would ( make them ) good candidates ,” she says . “ Boards just have to look for them and want to bring them on .”
The SACHCC makes every effort to recognize and promote Latinas in the business world by actively nominating their members for local , regional and state awards , recommending them for positions on boards and advisory councils and putting their names forward for speaking engagements at conferences and seminars .
“ We want women to know that their expertise and knowledge should be shared and that it builds influence in their fields ,” says Rodriguez Aguirre . “ We know that by promoting our Latinas , it lifts their visibility in the community — and organizations take notice .”
— Jennifer von Geldern
The webinars covered basic business topics like time management , digital marketing , e-commerce and tips on how to drive customer traffic to a website . They were recorded in Spanish and translated into English where necessary . ( Sixty-five percent of the SACHCC ’ s 550 member businesses are Latino-owned and 75 percent of the membership offers services in Spanish .)
For people who required an entrylevel understanding of business , the SACHCC conducted a 10-week series of classes called Emprende Sacramento . For three hours each Thursday night between late October and the end of December , 14 students received in-depth , online lessons in the fundamentals of business — from marketing and financial planning to market research and budgeting — taught by an instructor from the California Chamber of Commerce .
“( Emprende ) was more intensive and required more participation from the students ... like a classroom ,” Chavez says . The students were required to keep up with homework assignments and participate in discussions with the goal of giving them a foundational business education so that they could better benefit from the webinars and other programs offered by the chamber .
For established businesses looking to expand , the SACHCC offered NxLevel Academy , four weekly online sessions for up to 10 people led by industry experts on topics like renegotiating an office lease , led by a real estate attorney ; digital marketing , taught by a national digital coaching consultant certified by Google ; and financing , presented by California State Treasurer Fiona Ma .
Since learning how to access capital can be a big issue for small businesses , NxLevel Academy provided training on budgeting and best banking practices . Chavez explains that many small business owners may have a bookkeeper for tax purposes but not a formalized , written business plan , which complicates their ability to secure financing from a bank . She recalls her experience with a highly experienced paralegal who had a vision to expand her
96 comstocksmag . com | January 2021