New America Alliance (NAA) CEO Regina Montoya is on the board of directors for Washington Mutual, one of only six Hispanic females who appear on boards of Fortune 100 companies. She is a Harvard-trained lawyer who, in 1993, served as an assistant to President Bill Clinton and as director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Ms. Montoya is working to redefine the role and impact of Hispanics in America through her role at NAA, a nonprofit group whose primary goal is empowering Hispanics through wealth building and developing more ways to access capital.
You've worked as a lawyer, served on corporate boards, and enjoyed success as a TV commentator, what attracted you to the top executive spot at the NAA?
The opportunity to impact and invest in the Latino community is what attracted me to the NAA, as well as the opportunity to work with the top Latino business leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals who are committed to improving the quality of life for Latinos.
What do you enjoy the most about your position?
I enjoy working with the members who are groundbreakers and visionaries. They have all earned the success and power they enjoy. What is humbling to see is they have never forgotten where they came from, and I admire and respect these leadership traits. Our chairman, Jose H. Villareal, is a perfect example of what I'm referring to when I speak about these traits. He is a leading attorney at one of the largest law firms in the U.S. and still makes it a point to give back.
How important is it for Hispanics to be represented in the boardrooms of the nation's top companies?
It is extremely important to the NAA to have increased Latino board representation. The Hispanic market represents a lucrative growth opportunity for companies. Unfortunately, Latinos are not in the boardroom where the key decisions are being made.
What did it mean to you, personally, when you were first named to the board of directors at Washington Mutual?
It was a great honor to join a company that has demonstrated its commitment to serving the Latino community. When I was nominated to WaMu's board of directors, I was already at the helm of the New America Alliance, and one of our goals is to increase the number of Latinos on the boards of Fortune 1000 companies and major foundations.
Considering the current economic climate, has this been a challenging year for the WaMu board?
It has been challenging for the entire mortgage and housing industry. WaMu has been proactive in developing strategies with key stakeholders to stabilize the housing market.
What are the challenges or responsibilities that board members face?
The responsibilities are great, especially for board members of a public company. Today, with the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley and greater scrutiny of corporations, the public – whether it's the media, shareholders, Wall Street, or consumers – wants and seeks more transparency. It is the responsibility of the board to guide the company through changing times and be cognizant of the broad implications of their decisions.
What's the best way for Hispanics to get on the radar of large U.S. corporations?
I would encourage Hispanics who are interested in serving on boards to prepare now by succeeding and advancing in your career, developing relationships with the decision makers who nominate candidates, and becoming actively involved in the community by serving on nonprofit boards and small-business boards.
What did you experience, either personally or professionally, that drove you to want to help advance the Hispanic community?
I'm vested in the success of the Latino community, especially in the economic and educational realms. The demographics are changing, and I want to be at the forefront in empowering our community. Only through empowerment can we make lasting change that benefits Latinos and America as a whole.
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