Kicking off both National Hispanic Heritage Month and the Launch Circuit Speaker Series, SVLG and a group of startup leaders were fortunate to host an inspiring speaker and a trailblazer in the corporate world, Monica Lozano. As President and CEO of College Futures Foundation, Lozano is a board member for industry leaders like Target and Bank of America. This year she was named to be the first Latina board member of Apple.
In her work leading the College Futures Foundation, Lozano has driven efforts to partner with groups and leaders to catalyze systemic change, increase college degree completion for underrepresented groups, and to address gaps in educational opportunity. But in her role on the boards of some of the country’s most powerful corporations she’s gotten a rare insight into the gaps in representation while informing her inclusive, people-first perspective on leadership.
In this week’s inaugural Launch Circuit event – the first of a planned series of conversations about our ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship – Lozano talked candidly about where we are with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in corporate boards. She also explained how – especially during her involvement at Apple – the entirety of the DE&I area has transformed from what had been a traditionally standalone initiative to an actual way of doing business. And she talked specifically about how it’s affected the area of equity.
“In order for communities to build wealth, we need to actually provide equity–not debt cap, not debt capital–equity,” said Lozano. “And by investing in companies that grow and thrive, that are led by people of color that employ people of color, that have products that support communities of color.”
She also posed big questions for diverse leaders who are making their mark in entrepreneurship. Aspiring board members need to consider their values, their motivations, and what excites them about the business they’re joining or creating. And she pointed to some companies finally recognizing the value in leadership representation in their brand value.
“There is a movement underway,” said Lozano. “People understand that you cannot thrive in business if you don’t understand the marketplace, if the consumer isn’t represented at the highest levels of decision making.”
In a back and forth between startups in attendance and moderator Pedro David Espinoza, SVLG’s VP of Business Development, Lozano highlighted the importance of relationship-building. She particularly noted the importance of the strength of community and of mentorship and how sharing your businesses, your results, and your growth is a demonstration of leadership.
“In order for you to build, not just your business capital but your own personal capital,” she said, “you need to get out and people need to know you, and they need to understand the passion that you bring.”
Monica Lozano’s 3 Critical Board Member Questions: Lozano proposed that potential board members need to ask themselves these three things if they really want to be a part of a board:
- YOUR TIME AND ENERGY: What motivates you to spend the time and intellectual capital to make the contributions that you require to be an effective board member?
- YOUR CONNECTION TO THE WORK: What business speaks to you and makes you want to sit with the CEO, sit with the board and think about strategy?
- YOUR VALUES: What is it about being on a corporate board that would speak to your values? Does it have a culture that is a culture that resonates with you?