San Jose nonprofit boards lack Latino leadership
Attendees at a Latina Equal Pay Day event in Santa Clara on December 2022. File photo.

When it comes to sitting on a San Jose nonprofit board, Hispanics and Latinos are still being ignored—even though they are more than a third of the city’s population.

Data collected by Latinos LEAD highlights this disparity, showing that Latinos make up only 12.5% of nonprofit board members in the San Jose metro area, which includes Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. The underrepresentation is linked to limited access to professional networks for Latinos and a lack of targeted recruitment efforts by these organizations.

Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, executive director of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, said a lack of Latinos or minorities in boardrooms can be attributed to a shortage of professionals working within various sectors of industry. But she added there hasn’t been an effort to bring minorities onto nonprofit boards.

“There hasn’t been a desire to be inclusive and think about lived experience together with a professional background, as being something that is really seen as an asset on a board, (by) having folks that represent the communities that these nonprofits are serving,” Chavez-Lopez told San José Spotlight. “Because unlike a business, a nonprofit’s main goal is societal benefit.”

The data shows an absence of Latino members on the boards of numerous health and human services nonprofits, with 11 out of 38 organizations having no Latino representation. This trend extends to the housing and homelessness sector, where six out of 11 organizations lack Latino board members.

Former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, president and CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, warns that pledges without strategic plans and specific objectives are ineffectual.

“A pledge without specific objectives for the next six to 12 months, is not measurable,” Gonzales told San José Spotlight. “If you really feel committed to this and you really feel it’s important: put your approach and word on a piece of paper that says by 12 months from now, we’re going to have several Latinos and other representatives, the minority population, on our board of directors. Without it, it’s just an empty promise.”

According to the 2023 Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual report by researchers at San Jose State University showing structural inequalities in the area, just 2% of Latinas are in the tech sector despite making up nearly 13% of Santa Clara County’s population. In the last few years, nonprofit organizations and school programs have worked to get more Latinas into the hiring pipeline in Silicon Valley. Yet biases and roadblocks persist.

Kyra Kazantzis, CEO of the Silicon Valley Council for Nonprofits, which helps nonprofits grow their capacity to thrive and create equitable communities, said the findings from Latinos LEAD are disappointing, but not surprising.

“Lots of times board recruitment is done on a relationship basis.” Kazantzis told San José Spotlight. “If you’re starting with a mostly white board, and they’re using their friend group or their professional group to recruit board members, it’s more likely that they’re going to recruit another white board member. So those social networks and relationships are thought to be important, but they sometimes create biases and barriers to diversity.”

Different measures have been taken across nonprofits to address this issue. After the death of George Floyd in 2020,  the Silicon Valley Council for Nonprofits created a local nonprofit racial equity pledge, signed by more than 150 organizations, to promote racial equity in decision-making. Kazantzis said the pledge focuses on nonprofits committing to advancing equity values as a first step toward transformational action.

Chavez-Lopez advocates for broader recruiting practices and leadership training services, such as those offered by the Hispanic Foundation and Latinos LEAD, to introduce diverse perspectives. Gonzales echoes the urgency for accelerated action. He said the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley has been actively training Latino professionals for nonprofit board positions, with significant success in fostering leadership by 70% in the more than 500 trained professionals.

“We believe that an organization should be representative of the community that it serves, but that’s just the start,” Gonzales said. “Hard work is in the outreach, recruitment and appointment of Latinos to nonprofit boards.”

Contact Gabriela Lopez at [email protected] or follow @byGabiLopez on X, formerly known as Twitter

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