Victor Arias Knows the Future of Board Leadership is Latino
Story By: Lola Arellano-Fryer
In the past few years, there has been a significant shift in corporate approaches to board composition, with an ever-increasing focus on diversity. No one knows this better than Victor Arias, who has dedicated his multi-decade career to executive search and board recruitment, while championing the advancement of Latinos in these roles.
Arias is a Managing Director at RSR Partners, which he joined in January 2018 after many years as a Senior Client Partner with Korn Ferry. He was drawn to RSR Partners, a leader in executive recruitment, because of the agility and creativity afforded by a boutique firm. For Arias, joining RSR Partners represented an opportunity to amplify his voice as an advocate for Latinos in board leadership roles. By seeking Arias’ expertise, RSR Partners demonstrated an intentional commitment to Latino leadership, which is something he values highly.
Here, Arias lends us some of his insight on the future of Latinos in board leadership positions.
We’re living in a time of change.
Recent years have brought extensive shifts in the board panorama. Importantly for Arias, this year has seen more first-time directors than last. This development translates into new perspectives into the board room. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Board Diversity Census, members of minority groups are more likely to serve on multiple boards, which means ‘diversity’ can often translate into the presence of a small group of people.
Just within the past two to three years, corporations have begun to understand that their leadership must reflect their changing consumer base, which is increasingly driven by millennials, women, and minorities. “When I talk about Latinos on boards, it’s really about the case that the Latino demographic can be considered the new mainstream America,” Arias says.
A recent development that Arias has contributed to shaping is a new, more nuanced understanding of who represents talent in the corporate world. An older model that emphasized C-suite experience above all has given way to a vision that encompasses a broader diversity of skill sets, such as those of entrepreneurs and subject experts. This broader viewpoint helps bring diversity to boards in terms of knowledge and perspective.
Simultaneously, more Latinos are staying in the corporate pipeline, eventually rising to assume C-suite roles. According to Arias, it’s crucial to conduct better research on these trends in order to track these developments, as C-suite roles still remain a pipeline for future directors.
Why is it important that Latinos serve on boards?
While corporations have increasingly been thinking about diversity in their leadership, the conversation so far has focused on expanding the number of roles filled by women. According to Arias, this critical first step can pave the way for the inclusion of Latinos and African Americans, as well.
There’s a clear business case for diversity, Arias says. Representation at the upper echelons of corporate leadership allows companies to have better insight into segmented consumer groups, who have significant buying power, such as women and Latinos. Arias points to recent research indicating that boardroom diversity fuels innovation. Deloitte’s 2017 Board Diversity Survey, for example, found that respondents held a strong belief in diversity as a pathway to innovation and improved business performance.
What can Latinos gain from serving on boards?
Corporations clearly have much to gain from Latino leadership. What do Latinos stand to gain in return? Plenty, according to Arias. Serving on a board is a powerful opportunity to take a seat at the table. In this capacity, Latinos are positioned to make decisions that will shape both the corporate world and society beyond.
As demographics in the United States evolve, Latinos continue to be the dominant growth consumer market. However, few companies are ready to meet this new demand. Having a Latino voice at the table will soon be essential at a pivotal moment in economic history, and the individuals who serve in leadership capacities will become agents for change.
CEO turnover has recently become increasingly rapid; the average tenure of a CEO is now five years. Because directors now often serve longer than CEOs, this new trend of rapid CEO succession brings additional challenges to board service. Board members will have the opportunity to provide stability as they propel companies forward.
One thing is clear: Latinos are the future, both as a solid consumer base and as the future of corporate leadership. As companies seek to diversify their boards, they would be strategic by increasing Latino representation – and this is likely to translate into advancement opportunities for aspiring Latinos and Latinas down the line.