A New Standard in Corporate America
Latino influence in the nation’s top corporations can be seen in several new initiatives of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR). In the last few years, the organization has started a number of programs to advance Hispanic inclusion in Corporate America. Most recently, HACR recognized 26 up-and-coming Latino professionals during its 2009 HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers™ Program (YHCA).
Held October 18-20, 2009 in Washington, DC, the event provided training, networking and career-development opportunities for the HACR YHCA honorees, who were between the ages of 25 and 40 and hailed from Fortune 500 and HACR Corporate member companies around the country. They were nominated by their employers and selected by HACR based on their career accomplishments, leadership qualities, industry expertise, education, employment experience and commitment to their communities. According to Carlos F. Orta, HACR’s President and CEO, the goal was provide honorees with the mentors and the tools to better themselves, better their companies, and eventually ascend the pipeline of success to Corporate America’s top ranks.
“We want them to be really successful where they are today,” he said. “And part of that is having somebody you can turn to as a mentor that can help you with some of the challenges that you’re going to face as you climb that corporate ladder.”
Over 75 young Latinos and Latinas have participated in the program since 2007. This year’s class boasts a long list of achievements, including 21 master’s degrees and a combined 3,732 hours of volunteer community service. There were five vice presidents and 21 managers or directors, including Mario Acosta-Velez of Verizon, Jaime De La Cruz of Marathon Petroleum, and Clara Ponton of Microsoft. The intensive three-day program included panels on corporate governance and emotional intelligence. The new YHCAs also heard from previous participants, who shared their experiences weathering the current economic storm, Orta added.
“This has definitely set the bar high for any professional development opportunity,” said Selene Benavides of Dell. “HACR should be proud of their work.”
Several companies had two YHCAs selected, including AT&T, AARP, State Street, Dell, and Merck. “AT&T is committed to diversity, which is a part of our heritage—and more importantly—our future,” said Cindy Brinkley, AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer. AARP’s Rocky Egusquiza, VP of Multicultural Markets, was particularly proud of her two nominees, Alex Galeano and Adrian Mendoza. In 2007, she was herself a YHCA while at the Ford Motor Company Fund, where she was Director of Community Development and International Strategy. Egusquiza emphasized the significance: “The HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers exemplify the wealth of talent and expertise that Latinos bring to the workplace.”
This year, HACR also kicked off two new programs, its Corporate Executives Forum and its Corporate Directors Summit. Both were held in Dallas during a three-day event in May 2009. The Corporate Executives Forum drew 18 executives to network and discuss the challenges facing their companies. Participants included Orlando Padilla of GM, Lourdes Diaz of Sodexo and Mike Fernandez of State Farm. The Corporate Directors Summit brought together 17 members of corporate boards, who looked at issues including executive compensation, retention, shareholders and government involvement in Corporate America.
“These are very unique events,” Orta said. “There’s nothing out there like this for Hispanics, whether you’re on a corporate board or whether you’re a very senior executive. We’re providing them with a very unique opportunity, both for personal development as well as business development.”
Together with the YHCA, these programs are creating a corporate ladder for Latinos. “The HACR Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers within a few years can become Corporate Executive Forum members. The Corporate Executive Forum members in a few years will start sitting on corporate boards. So you see there’s a pipeline for success,” continued Orta.
Since 1986, HACR has worked toward its mission of advancing Latino inclusion in corporate America at a level commensurate with Latinos’ economic contributions. It focuses on four pillars: employment, procurement, philanthropy and governance. In addition to the programs described above, HACR is also employing a new tool to further its mission: the Corporate Accountability Strategy. This includes four methods for holding companies accountable for engaging the Latino community: agreements, a corporate index survey, research and analysis, and a stock fund. HACR’s board of directors adopted the strategy in early 2009.
“We are confident that HACR’s Corporate Accountability Strategy will become an effective tool in identifying Fortune 500 corporations that profit from, yet ignore, the more than 50 million Hispanics that spend at least $1 trillion a year, constitute one in eight employees in the labor force, and remain the largest and fastest-growing ethnic population in the United States,” said HACR board chairman Ignacio Salazar.
HACR began by distributing the corporate index survey to its members and other Fortune 100 companies in May. Orta said he hopes to release the results by the end of the year, adding that despite the downturn, many companies are still serious about engaging the Hispanic community.
“The companies that really see the value and that understand that this is good for business are still going to be committed and are still engaged and are still making sure that they have a good talent pool to choose from,” Orta said. “Those that did it because it’s nice to do, those are the ones that are not doing as much and are cutting back.”
Still, as the economy recovers and the Latino population continues to grow in size and influence, HACR’s efforts will start paying off.
“In 10 years … I think we’re going to have a lot more Hispanics on corporate boards,” Orta said. “We’re going to have a lot more Hispanics in the most senior management ranks. By then we would have built a phenomenal new tower of Hispanics in Corporate America. They will know that you have to help others coming up behind you just like the person above you helped you.”
In May 2009, AT&T hosted HACR’s CEO Roundtable, continuing its long-term support of the organization. “We’re glad to have HACR as a trusted partner and resource in our ongoing efforts to promote diversity and inclusion at AT&T,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. More recently, AT&T was represented in the HACR YHCA™ Program by two of its rising stars, Sergio Contreras and Marisia Parra-Gaona.
For Sergio Contreras, serving his community is a rewarding and reinvigorating experience. He was raised in Alamo, Texas and earned his undergraduate degrees in International Business and Human Services-Recreation from Westmar University in 1995. He currently serves as regional manager of External Affairs, and is responsible for working with elected officials in the Rio Grande Valley and in Austin to ensure that customers in his areas receive the highest-quality communications products and services available.
He spent nearly seven years in the wireless division, and rose through the ranks to become a wireless store manager. During his 14-year tenure at AT&T, Contreras championed grants for several organizations including Boys and Girls Clubs in South Texas and the Llano Grande Center in Edcouch, Texas. His commitment to the community traces back to his days at the Laredo Chamber of Commerce and the Laredo Daybreak Rotary Club in Laredo, Texas. “These organizations shaped my views on community service; they taught me the value of lending a helping hand to a community in need and effecting change in our future leaders,” Contreras said.
His volunteer work includes a partnership with the Tech Prep of the Rio Grande Valley, Inc. and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership Chamber of Commerce that prepares young students for today’s workforce by placing them with area businesses.. “We owe it to our communities and our country to help at risk students become our future leaders. I am honored to work for AT&T, a company with an unparalleled record of commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Contreras said.
Marisia Parra-Gaona has also worn multiple “leadership” hats. Originally from NewBraunfels, Texas, she earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and then continued on to earn her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. In 2006, she served as president of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, an organization that provides legal services to the Hispanic community.
In this role, she helped members in the legal profession in Dallas succeed and become involved in issues affecting Hispanics. She is also a current, active member of the Dallas Bar Association where she is involved in mentoring and programs which promote involvement of minority attorneys. Parra-Gaona also utilizes her industry knowledge and strong background to help communities in need obtain pro bono (free) counsel on legal issues.
In addition, she is a member of the Latino Leadership Initiative of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ Leadership Society, where she continues to promote involvement and support for the United Way. “I feel it is a duty and a privilege to be able to serve the community and be a positive influence in our schools, in our courts, and in the corporate arena,” she said. Parra-Gaona is also a huge advocate of education. She spends time tutoring students and speaking at local schools. She has served on the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent’s Community Advisory Committee. Her efforts in the workplace and outside in the community led to AT&T nominating her.
“It’s a privilege to receive HACR’s award and work for a company like AT&T. I value the opportunity to impact my organization and my community in positive ways,” she said.
Alex Galeano and Adriana Mendoza of AARP were both honored as HACR YHCAs in 2009. “This is a great honor and privilege,” Alex said when he learned of his award. “I hope to be able to use this accomplishment as an inspiration to other young Hispanics to keep working hard and strive to reach new levels in their education, careers and service to others.” For Adriana, the recognition is also meaningful: “This award re-energizes my heart and strongly reinforces my commitment. It motivates me to continue working hard and inspire other young Latinas to do the same.” This year, AARP was one of the few companies to have multiple HACR YHCAs selected from their ranks.
The HACR YHCA™ Program recognizes young Hispanic achievers as role models for young, aspiring Hispanics nationwide, and it’s clear why Alex Galeano was selected. A Senior Accounting Manager in the Financial Services Group, Alex is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in and is a member of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs. He was born in Nicaragua and came to the U.S. when he was 11. After working at a Fortune 500 corporation, he joined AARP six years ago, and says, “I’ve always wanted to work for an organization with a social or charitable mission, so AARP is a great fit.”
Alex earned both his college degree and MBA while working full-time. He volunteers as a member of the leadership group of the Young and Emerging Accountants (YEA) Committee, which was founded to facilitate the professional advancement of accountants under age 35 or new to the industry. Earlier this year, Alex established a non-profit organization, Ebenezer International Outreach, designed to provide social assistance and educational opportunities to people living in poverty in Central America, and has been working together with a team of young Hispanic leaders to carry out this work. He and his wife, Julie, have two young children. He enjoys watching football, basketball, and recently took up golf.
Adriana Mendoza is equally committed to “Creating the Good.” Her family immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico in 1978. A family of farm workers, the Mendozas followed the field crops throughout California’s Central Valley and settled in Bakersfield, where most of them still live. They represent five generations from the 85-year-old grandmother to a nine-month-old great-grandson. Last year, Adriana and other members of the Mendoza family collected 115 Divididos Perdemos/Divided We Fail pledge cards, winning the Friends and Family pledge card contest for AARP staff.
Adriana is an Associate State Director-Outreach for AARP California, working in six counties with 300,000+ members. Before joining AARP almost eight years ago, she served as Health Services Associate for AltaMed Health Services Corporation, a leading national Latino health services organization in East Los Angeles. Adriana specializes in diversity and aging issues, caregiving, long-term care and outreach to multicultural populations. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and in public policy and administration from California State University-Bakersfield, and a master’s from UCLA in social welfare. Adriana is actively involved on various boards, advisory councils and committees, including the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens Advisory Council, La Hermandad Hank Lacayo Family and Youth Center, the Ventura County Medical Research Foundation, the Caregiver Coalition of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Adult Abuse Prevention Council and the Ventura County HIV/AIDS Taskforce.
AARP Strategic Talent Management and Leadership Development Director Bryan Rawlings said: “The fact that Adriana and Alex are part of a group of 26 selected from a large pool of candidates speaks volumes about the caliber of talent we have at AARP.”