Welcome to Hispanic Business LiveChat. We would like to welcome our guests Fernando Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Multicultural & Diversity Strategy for Washington Mutual and Virginia Clarke, Global Leader of Spencer Stuart's Diversity Practice, taking your questions on diversity initiatives, experiences and opportunities at the executive level.
Carlos from Ft. Worth, TX
Any tips or advice for young professionals with their eyes on being an executive one day? I'm only two years into my career, but would like to position myself now for advanced positions in the future. Thanks.
My advice to any young professional is the following:
1) Find the area you are passionate about in business. This will lead to your success.
2) Establish a plan one year, 3 years, 5 years. Set goals and objectives accordingly.
3) Build a network of professional contacts to support you.
4) Seek out a mentor in your area of interest.
5) Obtain an advanced degree such as an MBA or law degree.
Ruben from Santa Ana, CA
What's the best way to break through the corporate mentality that requires only degrees as a pre-requisite and ignores valuable business experience that many older workers have? At 45, I find myself either over qualified on experience or not qualified on lack of a degree.
Ruben, unfortunately we live in a society that values certain degrees. While business experience is valuable, we often first look to degrees as evidence of discipline and some expertise. I'm afraid the prevailing corporate mentality will not change any time soon. You might consider going back to school part-time to enhance your marketability.
Annie from Ocala, FL
When companies are thinking/talking diversity are they also looking at age issues?
From my point of view, the age dimension is a very important factor to observe when considering diversity and multicultural marketing. The babyboomer generation (approximately 35% of the US population) will begin to reach retirement age in the next 10 years. Hence this is a very important market segment. Thanks for the question.
Alex from Miami, FL
There's been a lot of news about corruption among top tier executives. Is this a concern for executive recruiters and actual executives? Does it affect how executives are chosen?
Recruiters are concerned about the integrity and character of the candidates we present. Consequently, we do third party sourcing as we are developing the candidat; that is essentially referencing even before our client has met the candidate. Once the candidates is a finalist, we do more in-depth referencing. We verify degrees and at the client's request will conduct background checks that include credit and legal proceedings. Beyond that, we hope the the companies we are placing our candidates in have controls to prevent any wrongdoing.
Gissel from Bronx, NY
Nowadays, women are playing a very important role in the business world.
How can Hispanic women reach the executive suites without being discriminated by their race and gender?
Women are playing an important role in business, but I think we need to remember that it is still a man's world and there will continue to be bias and discrimination against women. The best way to combat that is to be well educated, work for the best companies, become an expert in your field and cultivate sponsors and supporters along the way. We women also need to know when its time to leave a company if we are blocked, underutilized or not promoted. We need to be good communicators and develop our subordinates. These are characteristics of leaders and what will keep you moving up in the executive suite.
Hugo from Miami, FL
My company has access to several resume databases. Any tips on how I can spot diversity candidates with executive potential?
It is important to personally review the resumes of individuals, which have been referred to you by a trusted colleague or professional executive recruiting firms such a Spencer Stuart.
I personally look for people
a) with a broad set of skills
b) that are passionate about their area of expertise
c) that have the ability to motivate and lead a large group of professionals
d)that have a proven quantifiable track record of success.
Thank you for your interesting question.
Wendy from NYC, NY
What are the strategies you use when recruiting, specifically diverse candidates?
We have the benefit of a large database that people can add themselves to daily. Frankly, though most of the people we recruit we have researched. They are people currently performing a role in a well-regarded company who were not necessarily looking to leave. As for diverse candidates, we find we have to look harder, do more sourcing and leverage professional associations (e.g.,National Society of Hispanic MBAs), and rely on the efficient networking that often exists in minority and female professional communities. We also spend considerable time preparing our clients who are hiring diverse candidates to pay attention to their needs as they move into a community and make sure they have mechanisms to support these professionals' retention.
roberto from nyc, NY
Is there a lack of diversity in Mass Media Executive Boardrooms?
I personally do not feel that we are at the level we need to be across all of corporate America with regard to the number of diverse people sitting on corporate boards.
In the case of Mass Media, it is uniquely important because of the role the media plays in posioning the way minorities and other diverse individuals are viewed globally.
What is of equal importance is the need to focus on inclusion/diversity at all levels of major corporations.
Thank you for your question.
Al from Columbus, OH
How do you inspire diversity, espcially in the executive ranks? I recently worked for a large specialty retailer who had over 85 executives and and none were Hispanic. I applied for a VP position and was denied the promotion. The company chose a white male applicant that had less experience and education. How can we force the issue of providing opportunites for Hispanics when the discrimination is so blatant?
Al, I don't think we can force the issue of providing opporutnities for Hispanics or other people of color just because its the right thing to do. There is discrimination in the workplace, but we have to hold ourselves accountable for making sure we are well qualified AND understand how we are perceived vs. how we perceive ourselves. We might need to influence and shift other's perceptions of us because given that we are different, people are likely coming to us with preconceptions. There are numerous reasons why the white man got the job over you, so don't assume it is because you are Hispanic. Seek to understand what characteristics are valued in your company and have a frank conversation with your boss about what you can do to get promoted. Push him/her to give you constructive feedback and gently challenge impressions that you think are unfair. You inspire diversity one person at a time by showing them the value of your presence. Wishing you well.
Billy from San Antonio, TX
I am an individual changing careers after a merger dissolved my past position. Does Washington Mutual support individuals that are pursuing their second careers?
Thank you kindly,
Billy R. Sainz
Yes, Washington Mutual is open and interested in looking at qualified candidates with prior work experience.
It would helpful to know what your area of expertise is.
Thank you for the question.
Rebecca from Richmond, CA
What are the rules or norms for pursuing positions while employed? Is it right for me to speak to recruiters while happily employed? Will my current employer reprimand me for it? Can they?
It is perfectly appropriate to take recruiters calls when you are happily employed. Be discerning and if something makes no sense for you, take a pass; don't waste people's time. Do use the opportunity to share some of your contacts with the recruiters; we remember and will call you again. The "Old Boy's Club" knows how the game if played and always know which recruiters calls to return. Your current employer need not know if you are taking calls, but if you are actively interviewing, you need to be careful. Some companies will meet with you on weekends or after hours to minimize disruption to your work day. I'll reiterate, don't shop, only pursue those things that might hold some real promise for you.
Rose from Sacramento, CA
I really like the company I work for, but there is no chance for mentorship here. Does this ruin my chances for advancement and possible top tier placement?
Your chances are hardly ruined. Consider finding a mentor from outside of your company, ideally someone who knows something about your business and is more senior than you who can act as a sounding board. Also think about sponsors in your current company. These are people of any race, ethnicity or gender who have some influence and authority in your company; they should have worked with you to know that you are talented and will be able to put in a good word for you in the senior ranks. Internal networking is key. Let people know something about you, get together once in a while outside of work, tell people what your aspirations are and you should do just fine. All the best.
Jesse from Houston, TX
How important is it to have a degree from a top US university to pursue executive positions? How can a person coming from a lesser known school, with the same degree, get their foot in the door?
Having a degree from a prestigious university is definitely an advantage in corporate America. I have found that what is equally important is the drive and the passion a person has for their chosen area of expertise.
In my case, some of the strongest candidates I have recruited have come from smaller lesser known colleges and universities. The unique understanding of the communities we seek to serve and their academic abilities work well to get the right mix of education and knowledge of the diverse market segments.
Thank you for your question.
Paul from Anchorage, AK
Is there any way to get your name out there to recruiters? If so, is there an ideal place or time to do it? Should I let them come to me? Thanks.
You can certainly reach out to recruiters to get in our databases, then we'll come to you when our client has a need. The Association of Executive Search Consultants (www.aesc.org) has lists of many of the top search firms. You would serve yourself well to know which recruiters specialize in your field. Search their web sites and find a couple of individuals at those firms to send your resume to. Do not rely on recruiters when you are job hunting, we are but one approach that might work, but you need to have a well thought out strategy to approach the companies that make sense for your career, geographic preference, etc. We certainly conduct thorough research to be able to find people, but often at more junior levels we can't get to you, so reach out thoughfully and discreetly. Know the difference between a retained firm and contingency firm (that's your homework :o)
Ronnie from Gainesville, FL
A lot is being said these days about bilingual abilities, particularly English-Spanish. How important are bicultural, bilingual abilities in today's business environment?
Being bi-cultural and bi-lingual is a very skill today and will only become more so in the years to come.
These individuals will serve as the bridge between major corporations and the diverse communities they seek to serve domestically and internationally.
In the case of the United States, Spanish has become the de-facto second language.
Thank you for your question.
Eduardo from Los Angeles, CA
What is the over all perception of executives from abroad and what would your advice be to one looking for a job or business opportunity in the US?
Perceptions vary widely. I'd like to believe that the more global our society becomes, the more open we are to talent, no matter what the package. Practically though, people like working with people whom they are comfortable with. That means there is an inherent expectation that one will demonstrate American values and behaviors with some room for individuality. I would urge you to be able to clearly articulate your competencies and expertise. Choose companies that have operations where you might have come from as they might have a greater liklihood of valuing your culture, as well as your skills. Talent and skill reign supreme!
Joseluis Louie from Dallas, TX
What is the best procedure to mobilize interest in increasing diversity initiatives within your company?
The best way to create a sense of urgency/interest in any corporation is to initiate a business case that focuses on the economic potential of diverse markets. Rarely will executives argue about the potential of the hispanic market in the US when it is framed for them in the context of their business (i.e. What are the market opportunities for the products and services we provide today and in the future?).
Thank you for your question.
Katie from Seattle, WA
I know the value of an advanced degree in furthering your career. Does it matter what type of advanced degree you pursue? Does it have to be Law or an MBA? Does it matter what school you go to?
Your advanced degree will all depend on what functional area of expertise you want to pursue. If you want to be a CEO and focus on general management, maybe after having worked in other functional areas, then, an MBA or law degree probably make sense. If you want to run a hospital or work in a pharmacuetical company, a PhD or MD make sense. I would seek areas of study where you have a natural affinity or passon and where you can excel. Always try for the school with the best reputation for that area of study, it just removes one more barrier. Understand the placement rates of graduates and who funds research to have a sense for the greatness of the school's reputation. Talk to alumni as they can be a great resource for jobs throughout your career.
Bill from Los Angeles, CA
Do you think its a good idea to identify yourself as a "Diverse" candidate on your resume?
I certainly wouldn't recommend a photo or other obvious label, but a well-placed mention of participation or membership in a minority or female professional association can't hurt. We look out for cues; even referencing language fluency can give us insight. Once you meet with a recruiter or HR person, don't hesitate to offer where you come from and what your ethnicity is. We can't ask, so if its not obvious, we appreciate the hellp.
Mary from Portland, OR
Virginia, I am a Caucasian woman interested in furthering my career in the multicultural markets. Do you think being Caucasian will put me at a disadvantage?
Frankly, it can. Part of what companies are seeking from someone leading these areas is insight from personal experience. If, however, you have lived outside of the country, speak other languages and can demonstrate broad cultural awareness and insight, you might have a shot.
Ricardo from San Diego, CA
What input or insight would you give to a medium- or large-sized organization not currently developing or participating in diversity initiatives?
Diversity is a strategic enabler of business success today and will be more so in the future.
Two things to consider:
1) As the demographics change to more diverse workforce, middle and senior level managers will have to develop the skills to effectively manage and motivate employees from a wider more diverse spectrum.
2)In order for any mid to large-sized company to continue to grow successfully in the future, they will have to learn how to embrace a more diverse customer base.
Thank you for your question.
Patricia from Philadelphia, PA
What exactly, beyond race of course, qualifies a recruit as diverse?
It all depends on the company. Generally in the U.S. people of color (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American) are considered diverse as are women, people with disabilites and gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgender. We can't recruit for the latter 2 groups however. Other companies refer to "underrepresented" groups, so for example in a technology company Asians and East Indians might not be underrepresented and therefore are not considered diversity in that context.
This concludes our Hispanic Business LiveChat. A big thanks to Virginia Clarke, Global Leader of Spencer Stuart's Diversity Practice and Fernando Hernandez, Senior Vice President of Multicultural & Diversity Strategy for Washington Mutual. For more information on Spencer-Stuart and Washington Mutual, please visit http://www.spencerstuart.com/ and http://www.wamu.com/