Ozzie Gromada Meza and his mission for Latino talent to make a name for itself in Corporate America
An exclusive interview from AL DÍA News with the new acting president and CEO of LCDA.
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The Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) announced in early April the departure of Esther Aguilera, the renowned Latina leader who served as president and CEO for the past seven years.
Recognized as the only organization that is 100% focused on positioning Latinos in corporate boardrooms in the United States, LCDA chose to promote Ozzie Gromada Meza, who was serving as vice president of Member and Talent Services, to exercise the roles vacated by Aguilera.
AL DÍA News spoke exclusively with Gromada Meza, who expressed what this new responsibility means in his professional life, as well as some of the objectives he has set for himself in carrying out his new roles.
Likewise, the new acting president and CEO of LCDA left a series of recommendations addressed to Hispanic executives and corporations so that the promotion of Latino talent to business leadership positions, as well as their application to boards of directors of Fortune companies, is more effective.
Esther Aguilera, LCDA's President and CEO for the past seven years, is stepping down to pursue new opportunities. @ozziemeza1, LCDA's Vice President, Member and Talent Services, will step in as Acting President and CEO immediately.https://t.co/WZecG5Ly5V— Latino Directors (@LatinoDirectors) April 11, 2023
A New Leader for Latino Leaders
After the ratification of his appointment, since he was initially chosen to perform these roles on an interim basis, Gromada Meza indicated some of the reasons why he believes that Latinos are the least represented community in corporate boardrooms in the U.S.
“It's about the pipeline issues, the stealth issues, the bias issues, and that's also why LCDA is having an impact, because what we're doing is taking the guessing game out. So when the talent search teams ask us 'Where are the Latinos?' we know where they are, we know who identifies as Latino,” said Gromada Meza.
Highlighting the work the organization does to ensure that ‘Latinidad’ is celebrated at all levels of the supply chain, as well as that these executives receive governance education and extensive leadership coaching with experienced trainers who share their cultural background, Gromada Meza applauds LCDA's work to make these leaders are no longer the 1%.
“Many times we act simply as life coaches, to say how to represent yourself, not only from a leadership perspective, but also from a Latino perspective, just making people feel very comfortable. It is a superpower to have this perspective,” noted Gromada Meza.
One of the goals that the new acting president and CEO has set for himself to strengthen the organization and continue to build meaningful relationships with those who influence the boardroom is to be able to understand what companies are looking for and how they are looking for the talent.
Gromada Meza pointed out:
I am very proud because this is the first time that an organization methodically tracks this talent to make it visible and connect it with influential roles within the boardroom.
Highlighting how today 30% of searches are made through companies dedicated specifically to this work, which represents a significant portion of the opportunities, Gromada Meza pointed out that it was only when he came to LCDA that he discovered the systemic problems of the recruitment system, so now he will work to understand once again how to elevate talent, how to make it easily accessible, and thus maximize the impact of the association.
“We are cataloging all the Latinos that we can find, who are in C-suite, in the boardroom, and those who were in them. We believe that, as the preeminent organization for finding Latino talent, we have highly marketable profiles, because we are doing it every day, we are tracking it, and we are also making things easier for partners to have access to this information,” underscored Gromada Meza.
It's Time to Embrace ‘Latinidad’
Focused on finding ways to continue advancing LCDA's objectives, Gromada Meza emphasizes the importance of the current situation, in which, for the first time, Latinos can be the owners of their history and be more influential in how they act, so that history comes alive.
“We want to really help influence the pipeline by just bringing them together, calling to learn together, really using the power of our population to not only see how we can make our own community more visible, but also more powerful through knowledge,” stated Gromada Meza.
Gromada Meza is a first-generation-Mexican-American, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant parents from Mexico. He highlights the work that LCDA is doing to raise awareness, noting that good things are happening, and indicating they should have a celebratory tone in the Latino community as the days as a minority in the U.S. are behind them.
“We all need to be able to come together to find ways to amplify the work we are doing and we just want other organizations to increase visibility, to discover that there is a lot of Latino talent, big and small,” emphasized Gromada Meza.
Also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Gromada Meza especially highlights how being openly gay has allowed him to have conversations with Latino leaders who now feel more comfortable being who they are, from a Latino perspective, while many of them are getting to a place where they feel comfortable being who they want to be in the corporate environment.
"I want to celebrate those who are invisible, seeking to change something that I have seen while in the trenches, and that is that many leaders are being overlooked, they are invisible, because they are not claiming their ethnicity," said Gromada Meza.
How to Grow the Number of Latinos in These Positions of Influence
Gromada Meza pointed out that this task requires the support of Latinos who are already there, while stressing the importance of expanding the candidate pool.
He indicated that it is necessary to advocate for companies to actively seek Latino candidates when hiring for board positions and/or influential roles, which should involve expanding networks, engaging with professional organizations, and reaching diverse talent pools.
The LCDA president pointed out that just as other communities are acting, Latinos must ensure that whenever someone calls them to exert an influence role, and for any reason, whether they are in conflict or not interested, they cannot assume, they must have a list of 5 to 10 Latino leaders who can be considered.
On the other hand, Gromada Meza also highlighted the importance of having diverse search teams to identify talent and that are capable of understanding the dynamics of these communities.
“Broadening the pool of candidates is going to be very important, not only from the Latino perspective, but also from the perspective of the corporation. Likewise, it is necessary to diversify the teams that are executing searches, from a corporate perspective of talent acquisition. Today, the corporations, in the talent search team, are not diverse enough to be able to really influence the pipeline and guarantee that there is fairness in the process,” added Gromada Meza.
Goodbye to Invisibility
Gromada Meza underlines the evolution of transparent reports to encourage Latino participation in talent selection processes.
The LCDA CEO applauded the work that has been done in recent months to provide clearer guidance from the EEOC, which promotes three valuable steps for diversity and inclusion:
- Holding companies accountable
- Drive progress
- Increase visibility for those who are hard to find
“Transparent reporting from a corporate perspective is very necessary, because if there isn’t, our community will always be underrepresented and not visible,” said Gromada Meza.
In addition, Gromada Meza points out that now people are reclaiming their ethnic origin and using it as a way for corporations to continue to be committed to diversity.
In this sense, the leader pointed out that there is a factor that is creating important problems for the association to advance in its mission, and it is the invisibility that members of their community believe it is necessary to assume in many scenarios.
And it is that due to factors that existed in the past, in terms of prejudice, and everything that was very accentuated, there could be many who decided to ignore their ethnic origin, something that has begun to change in recent years as the community feels more celebrated.
“Good or bad, I think bad, because it doesn't help our mission, a particularity of the Latino experience is that you can decide when you want to be Latino or when you want to be invisible and they just don't mention it, they don't talk about it. A lot of people did it because they didn't want to deal with any racism or any possibility that this would slow down their progress within an organization, so they implemented the invisibility factor: 'They're not going to ask, I'm not going to talk about it,'” highlighted Gromada Meza.
The Latino leader also believes that bias should be eliminated from the selection process, whether through diverse interview panels, blind résumé reviews or standardized evaluation criteria, there are different things that he believes organizations can do to eliminate this factor.
Affirming that by dispensing with this requirement it is possible to guarantee that the pipeline includes exceptional leaders, who are diverse, Gromada Meza points out that with this it is possible to change many dynamics, and corporations can find a way to eliminate this bias.
“I think the way to do it is just to show that there is great talent out there and we know where it is. At the end of the day, a selection should not be based on race, they should pick the best person for the job and the best person who is prepared to land that position and be a good board leader. I think that if we can find ways to do it, it will really change a lot the way that Latinos enter companies with the hope of obtaining leadership positions,” concluded Gromada Meza.
Given Gromada Meza's words of wisdom and encouragement, now is the time for Latino leaders to dream big and proudly carry their talent and roots.
It's time for Latinos to claim and embrace their ethnicity and take off the cloth of invisibility.
Latinos are no longer a minority. They are the ones driving the U.S. economy forward.