The influence of Latinas in business has expanded exponentially in the last decade. Hispanic women from all walks of life are opening businesses, increasing their influence in the corporate world and attaining major strides in government and the non-profit sector. However, just a few make it to the top, breaking the infamous glass ceiling that prevents brilliant Hispanic women from sitting in corporate boardrooms.
These five most influential Latinas board directors sit at the big table in high ranking Fortune 100 companies (HACR data 2012). They have had their fair share of trouble, failures and controversy but evidently they have managed to climb the ladder and be considered as prominent leaders in the corporate world.
Latina leaders in business and corporate boardrooms
Aida M. Alvarez (Born in Aguadillas, Puerto Rico, 1950)
Aida M. Alvarez currently serves on the board of Wal-Mart (Fortune 100 No. 2) since 2008.
She is also a board member at the Union BanCal Corp., parent of Union Bank N.A., and Progreso Financiero. Among other positions, she was Vice President in public finance at First Boston Corporation and Bear Stearns & Co., Inc. Alvarez serves in the Advisory Board of Deloitte LLP and on the board of overseers for Harvard University. She also served as a Director of PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., among others.
From 1997 to 2001, Alvarez was the first Latina to serve as 20th Administrator of the Small Business Administration during the Clinton era. Previously, she was the first director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).
As a Walmart board member –and since employees started campaigning for wage increases and better working conditions–, she has been the subject of controversy for refusing to express her position on the matter.
In 2013, shareholders have also expressed concerns with the “lack of stronger and more independent oversight” from some Wal-Mart board members, which included Alvarez.
Born in, Puerto Rico, she moved to New York with her parents where she became an ASPIRA graduate. She then graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English literature, and became a journalist. She holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Iona College, NY; Bethany College, KS; and the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico.
Cynthia Telles (Born in El Paso, TX 1953)
General Motors (Fortune 100 No. 5) appointed Dr. Cynthia A. Telles to its board of directors in 2010.
She is also a board member at Americas United Bank, and previously sat on the board of Sanwa Bank California.
Dr. Telles is director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at the David Geffen School of Medicine. She currently serves at the Board of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, Inc. (Kaiser Permanente), and was also Board Chair of The California Endowment.
Under the Clinton Administration, she was appointed to the the National Advisory Council on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. She sat at the Mental Health Task Force of the Carter Center in Atlanta. President Obama appointed her to The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars in 2010.
Dr. Telles served as the President of the Women’s Commission of the City of Los Angeles for 13 years, Vice President of the Ethics Commission and Vice President of the Library Commission.
Stakeholders as well as the general public were surprised with her inclusion to the GM’s board given her background in health and public service –distant from cars and business. However, GM CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre believed her addition would bring a perspective of diversity to the struggling company trying to gain share of the Hispanic market.
Kimberley Casiano (Born in New York, 1957)
Kimberly A. Casiano is an independent director of Ford Motor Co. (Fortune 100 No. 9) since 2003.
Casiano also has served –currently or in the past– as board member of Mead Johnson Nutrition Company, FPYME NC5, and Mutual of America; as a Trustee of the Hispanic College Fund, and the Moffitt Cancer Center, among others.
She is president of Kimberly Casiano & Associates, a firm providing advisory services in marketing, recruiting, communications, advocacy, and diversity to target the U.S. Hispanic market.
Until 2009, Casiano was president and COO of Casiano Communications. Since 1987, she served in a number of management positions within the family business.
A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton and Harvard universities, Casiano is the first Latina to be elected to Ford’s board. She met Bill Ford Jr. in the 1970s, when they shared a Latin American studies class at Princeton University. The business woman confessed she used to confront Ford on social and economic issues during that time, speaking up for disadvantaged minorities in America.
Many years later, they got reintroduced in the business world and Casiano was invited to Ford’s board. The anecdote highlights the importance of early friendships, and the benefits of attending prestigious universities in the country.
Monica Cecilia Lozano (Born in Los Angeles, CA , 1956)
Monica C. Lozano is an independent director at Bank of America (Fortune 100 #13) since 2006.
She has also served –currently or in the past– as director, board member or trustee at the Walt Disney Co., Bank of America, Tenet Healthcare, UnionBanCal, California Health Care Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, Obama Victory Fund 2012, California State Board of Education, Weingart Foundation, and Regents of the University of California, among others.
She sits at President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and was named to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board in 2009.
Lozano comes from a family of publishers in Hispanic media. Second generation Mexican-American, she is the granddaughter of Ignacio E. Lozano, a Mexican journalist who founded La Prensa in 1913, the first and largest Spanish publication in the US at the time. Together with his wife, Alicia Elizondo de Lozano, they also founded La Opinión in Los Angeles in 1926.
Lozano’s father continued the journalistic heritage, taking over La Opinión in 1953 after his father’s death.
Lozano worked her way up in the family business since 1985 to achieve the position of publisher and CEO. She has been recognized as an active advocate of the Latino community, especially in Hispanic women’s health.
Maria Elena Lagomasino (Born in Havana, Cuba, 1949)
Maria Elena (Mel) Lagomasino is the Managing Partner and CEO of WE Family Offices, a company founded last January with the mission to change family wealth management. She has been working with financially successful families for more than three decades. Before. she served as CEO of GenSpring Family Offices, a leading wealth management firm.
Mel serves on the boards of The Coca-Cola Company, Avon Products, Inc and the Americas Society, and is a Trustee on the Board of the National Geographic Society.
She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Economic Club of New York, among others. She also is on the board of two not profits organizations: The Council of the Americas and the Cuba Study Group.
In 2003, she was named by President Bush as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and appointed to serve on the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy in 2006.
She started her career in banking at Citibank in 1977, after majoring in French and working as a librarian at the United Nations. She soon found that her call was to help rich families manage their wealth, especially those in Latin American, by taking advantage of her cultural insights. Lagomasino worked her way up to serve as the Chairman and CEO at JP Morgan Private Bank. Previously, she was the Head of Chase’s Worldwide Private Banking Business for Latin America.
Mel obtained a MS degree from Columbia University, an MBA from Fordham University, and a BA from Manhattanville College.
Her parents immigrated to the United States when she was 11, to escape the Fidel Castro’s regime. Her family left properties and a cigar business in Cuba, and re-established in West Hartford, Conn.