News Column

Ready for Progress

January/February 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine
Kim Casiano
Kim Casiano

Hispanics hold 95 seats on the boards of directors at Fortune 500 corporations, one fewer than last year.

But new rules for corporate governance may point to better boardroom diversity in
the future.

Several trends in recent years have hampered any significant increases in the number of minority board members. Consolidation in industries that historically promoted diversity has limited opportunities for qualified Hispanics. Five years ago, for example, such Fortune 500 companies as U.S. West, Times Mirror Corp., and SunTrust Bank had Hispanic board members, but those companies no longer exist.

Then the corporate accounting scandals of 2002 brought negative public attention to the boardroom. The publicity accelerated a trend toward smaller, more accountable boards. The study "Corporate Governance, Board Diversity and Firm Performance," conducted by Oklahoma State University, shows that the proportion of women and minorities in the boardroom correlates directly to the number of directors.

But the scandals also inspired regulations on governance that may provide a renewed catalyst for diversity. In an exclusive interview with Hispanic Business, SEC Commissioner Roel Campos notes that the Sarbanes-Oxley law requiring corporations to recruit more independent directors may act as a stimulus to bring Hispanics on board (read the transcript of the interview here). In addition, the Oklahoma State study confirms that boardroom diversity tends to increase with the number of outsiders on a board.

This year, 69 Hispanic individuals appear on the Hispanic Business Boardroom Elite directory, the same as last year. The number of corporations with at least one Hispanic on the board is now 88, again the same as last year.

Six Boardroom Elite members appear on the list for the first time this year, while nine names drop from the list. Newcomers include Aida Alvarez, former administrator of the Small Business Administration; former ambassadors Ed Romero and Paul Cejas; publisher Kimberly Casiano; and Ford President James J. Padilla. The most prominent name absent from this year's list is Carlos Gutierrez, formerly CEO and board member at Kellogg, who recently was named U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

To qualify for the Boardroom Elite, members must be U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent who sit on the board of a Fortune 500 corporation headquartered in the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

The Boardroom Elite directory was compiled by Chief Economist Juan Solana, Acting Research Supervisor Michael Caplinger, Senior Research Assistant Cynthia Marquez, and Business Economist J. Tabin Cosio.


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