This is not about diversity, but commerce: UNITED's CEO
Three of America’s most successful CEOs got together at L'Attitude to discuss how Hispanics are reshaping business in America.
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Oscar Muñoz, Michael Corbat and Arne Sorenson, three chief executives dealing with a global pandemic’s extraordinary conditions, sat down to talk about diversity and other issues during the first day of the L’Attitude 2020 virtual event.
Muñoz, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of United Airlines, was also the moderator for the panel, The Latinx Factor: The Force Reshaping American Business and The Economy.
He is one of the few CEO of Latino descent at the helm of one of the major corporation in the United States.
Although the discussion was intended to focus on financial aspects and the development of the Hispanic community, the panelists could not avoid talking about the multiple current circumstances — such as the COVID-19 and the presidential elections.
For Muñoz, there’s no doubt Hispanics will drive the economy.
“The overarching goal for me in these previous conversations is to sort of move away from the traditional uploaded surrounding our Latinx community. We want to wake up people to the facts the consumer base that’s Latino is really, beginning to really drive the economy,” the CEO said.
However, there is a general lack of knowledge about this potential, so, for Muñoz, education is key.
“The message is being received increasingly in C-suites and boardrooms, and corporate American is beginning to understand what we are and what we represent: not just on the diversity inclusion piece, but the commerce piece.”
He further called diversity, “huge business.”
“The numbers don’t lie. Hispanics and Latinos are one of the most powerful forces in America today,” Corbat said, “It’s 82% of the growth in the US workforce since 2008 — since the last financial crisis — has come from the community. The number of Hispanic and Latino business owners has grown 34% compared with just 1% for all other business owners.”
“That incredible potential can go unfilled as long as this community continues to be excluded from financial services at every level,” he continued.
Corbat took the opportunity to announce that Citi would commit $1 billion to initiatives to close the racial wealth gap.
For Muñoz, the Coronavirus pandemic has both tested our limits and revealed many gaps in our armor.
“Life in the time of Corona has required a lot from all of us; it’s also revealed a lot from all of us: not only the economy but the racial bias and inequality,” he added, “Unfortunately, we’ve exposed some strength, but also an awful lot of weakness.”
It’s been especially devastating to his business, airlines, and to the hospitality business that Sorenson runs.
Muñoz noted that previous L’Attitude, and other conferences, were done face to face whereas this year the event is digital and that implies business lost for both.
Muñoz and Sorenson said at times they have had to find work at other companies due to the COVID-19 related layoffs.
Sorenson said COVID-19 led to, “the functional disappearance of our business. Our revenues went down 90-95% in those first months. We’re probably still down 60-65% still around the rest of the world.”
Muñoz said that Hispanics will not only play a critical role in this election but upcoming ones as well.
“For every year over the next decade, one million more Latino will turn eighteen and be eligible to vote,” Muñoz said.
Corbat said it was part of Citi’s brand to get behind diversity and other social justice issues.
“Today, more and more consumers are really putting money behind brands that they truly respect what they stand for. It’s not just about a great product; it’s not just about a great service, but it’s about the broader things that the brand stands for.” Corbat said, “You talked about the incredible demographic of the Hispanic/Latinx community and we very much see that, in fact, the numbers we show actually illustrate that that community today is even more resolute in terms of its voice.”
Sorenson took a different tact and warned that no community is monolithic, including its voting patterns; and that the most important thing is to be welcoming to everyone, including all political views.