A Drive to Thrive: CEO’s Career Built On Closing Opportunity Gap For Latinas

Growing up in East Chicago, Indiana, Patricia Mota was the youngest of four with three older brothers. She attended a public high school that was predominantly Latino and African American.When she was 16, one of her older brothers offered her the chance to move in with him and his family in Gilbert, Az., and finish her junior and senior years of high school there.“I realized right away the education and resource gap, as I was taking AP classes and talking to college recruiters,” says Mota, now president and CEO of The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), a national nonprofit that helps Latinos excel in their careers.It was also the start of her mission to close the opportunity gap and help others realize their ambition and achieve their career goals.[bctt tweet=“It is the mission of Patricia Mota, president of The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, to close the #opportunitygap and help others realize their ambition and achieve their #careergoals.” username=“takeleadwomen”]As part of the first generation in her family to attend college, Mota graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, where as a student in 2005 she co-founded El Centro Comunal Latino, a nonprofit community center still in operation.Mota earned a masters in public administration, later working in higher education and recruitment before joining HACE in 2010, the organization launched in 1982 with 52,000 members across the country. The mission is to improve the employment, development and advancement of Latino professionals.[bctt tweet=“The mission of HACE is to improve the employment, development, and advancement of #LatinoProfessionals.” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Our mission is not only to provide professional development, but also help employers seeking to recruit Latino talent,” says Mota.“I get to say I’m in a career that is my own personal mission and it is something I learned early on. It aligns with my personal experiences. I grew up in a traditional Mexican Catholic household and had three older brothers and the expectations were different for me,” Mota says. “They supported my career and my education. These are the challenges of so many young girls and women.”Based in Chicago, Mota says through professional development, resources, networks and access to career opportunities, HACE helps Latinos succeed in every phase of their careers with partnerships with employers across the country.With a leadership tour of 10 cities that began recently in Chicago, HACE intends to address barriers facing advancement for Latinos in “Dismantling Biases, Promoting Inclusive Leadership,a series of panels and events with corporate sponsors including ADP, NBA, NFL, Hyatt, NBCUniversal, Freddie Mac, Merck, AT&T, Oath, Marathon Oil, Capgemini Sodexo, Northern Trust, Motorola Solutions,  H & R Block, Barilla, Coca-Cola and Groupon.[bctt tweet=“Through professional development resources, networks and access to career opportunities, HACE helps Latinos succeed in every phase of their careers with partnerships with employers across the country. #latinoleadership” username=“takeleadwomen”]In New York on February 28, a leadership event sponsored by Major League Baseball precedes events in San Francisco, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Washington D.C. and McLean, Va.The tour’s theme is deliberate and based on new research.“Everyone at all levels have these biases,” Mota says. “We are not able to come up with solutions, but we come up with actions and provide the platform to reflect.”According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, there were 26.8 million Hispanics or Latinos in the U.S. labor force, nearly triple the 9.0 million in 1988. Hispanics or Latinos composed 16.8 percent of the labor force in 2016, up from 7.4 percent in 1988.Yet few are at the CEO level.The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) showed in its 2016 Corporate Inclusion Index of 133 corporations that 15 percent of the total reported employee base are Hispanics. Hispanics held 7 percent of board seats and 5 percent of executive officer positions.Fifteen percent of corporation participants improved their rating from 2015 which reflects their commitment to diversity and inclusion of Hispanics, according to the study. In 2016, only 9 Hispanics were CEOS of Fortune 500 companies, just 2 percent of the total.Each year The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) publishes a list of the 50 Most Powerful Latinas in corporate America including “executives running Fortune 500 companies, large private firms, and a few impressive entrepreneurs leading global companies.”While these leaders serve as inspirational role models, for many early and mid-career Latinos, challenges to get to those levels persist.Mota says the decision to specifically address bias in career progression for Latinos in the leadership tour came after a survey of 900-plus HACE members revealed that while 30 percent work at an associate level, only 3 percent are at the executive level.When asked to rank their top barriers to advancement at their current employer, the three reasons that were most often ranked as their No. 1 hurdle are lack of opportunities, not feeling valued and lack of a clear structure for advancement, with 13 percent listing little chance to gain new skills or explore another job function.The leadership tour is in addition to an ongoing Women’s Leadership program, Mujeres de HACE a 14-week interactive program available in those same 10 cities. The results have been remarkable, Mota says, with 40 percent of program alums reporting a promotion within six months of completing the program. An additional 30 percent report a promotion within one year.More than 40 percent also report a salary increase within six months of completing Mujeres, and 80 percent report serving on a non-profit board or volunteering after the program.What makes the program so successful, Mota says is, “We understand traditional cultural norms and understand the misalignment with corporate values.” For instance, Mota adds, “Strong respect for authority maybe why I am not comfortable speaking out. We are not about assimilating, we are about creating a bridge of understanding.“Latinas are paid 54 cents for every dollar a white male is paid for the same work, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.  Their March 2017 report shows that “a persistent gender-based wage gap continues to harm women, their families and the economy and it is particularly damaging for Latinas.”The report continues, “Even in states with large populations of Latinas in the workforce, rampant wage disparities persist with potentially devastating consequences for Latinas and their families. In the 20 states with the largest numbers of Latinas working full time, year-round, pay for Latinas ranges from 43 to 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in those states.”Even knowing this trend of disparity, Latinas can be fearful of asking for more money, Mota says.“They are grateful for the first offer, even  though they are key decision makers in the household and are often taking care of elders and children,” Mota says. “We spend a lot of time on how to build influence and ask for what you want.”Mota’s advice to Latinas in the early stages of a career, or perhaps as young as she was in high school is simple. “I always tell young people to find an opportunity to go away, whether for school or outside your neighborhood, to seek more opportunities.”