National Hispanic Heritage Month: The Challenges Facing Today’s Leading Executives
National Hispanic Heritage Week was first celebrated in 1968. First proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as a time to celebrate Hispanic culture and to recognize the contributions of citizens of Hispanic descent, the week has become a month-long celebration observed September 15 through October 15.
Americans of Hispanic descent now comprise approximately 18.7% of the population, according to data from the 2020 U.S. Census. As the second-largest minority-population group in the country, Latino business leaders are noticeably underrepresented. Even though 2021 marks 40 years since Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta was named CEO of the Coca-Cola Co. (Tii:KO) and the first Hispanic to lead a publicly traded company, today, only 16 execs oversee Fortune 500 companies. And not a single Hispanic woman is among them.
Who are these Hispanic CEOs today? And just how are they facing the multiple challenges of these times?
Frank del Rio, President & CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (Tii:NCLH)
A leading global cruise company that operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has a combined fleet of 28 ships with nearly 60,000 berths, taking tourists to 490 destinations worldwide. Needless to say, 2020 was a devastating year for the cruise line as ships in the U.S. remained docked for nearly 18 months due to pandemic-related mandates. This halting of operations resulted in an 80% decline in 2020 revenues and the most challenging single year in the company’s history. Under del Rio’s leadership, the cruise line is weathering the storm, adding a multi-layer safety program and protocols to protect passengers from the virus’ spread. The company expects to have approximately 40% of its fleet capacity operating by the end of the third quarter 2021 and approximately 75% by year-end 2021. Del Rio has another reason to be optimistic: Oceania Cruises recently set an all-time single-day booking record that surpassed the most recent record by nearly 60%.
Ramon Laguarta, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo, Inc. (Tii:PEP)
This CEO, who also became Chairman of the Board in January 2019, has been at the helm of Pepsico since October 2018. After joining the company in 1996, he served as the head of several European divisions before becoming president in September 2017. With dozens of brands that include its namesake cola, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Aquafina, Ruffles, Cheetos, Lipton, and Doritos, PepsiCo generated more than $70 billion in net revenue in 2020. Among Laguarta’s goals is leading PepsiCo along its path to sustainability. On that front, the global beverage and snacks provider is looking to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 and net water positive by 2030. PepsiCo also plans to introduce more sustainable packaging to cut virgin plastic per serving by 50% across its global food & beverage portfolio.
Richard Gonzalez, Chairman & CEO, AbbVie Inc. (Tii:ABBV)
Gonzalez spent 30 years as an executive with Abbott Laboratories (Tii:ABT) before taking the reins of AbbVie when it was launched as a spin-off from Abbott in 2013. As Chairman of the Board and CEO of the pharmaceutical company, he guided its $63 billion purchase of Allergan in 2019 and has been instrumental in the company’s continuing growth and development during the global pandemic. Thus far, the biopharmaceutical company is executing on that growth strategy. For its most recent second quarter, AbbVie posted a 33.9% gain in net revenues on a reported basis on strong performances across its product portfolio. AbbVie has 48,000 employees around the world.
Enrique Lores, President and CEO, HP Inc. (Tii:HPQ)
Like many others, Lores faced a challenging 2020. While the pandemic greatly accelerated demand for technology, manufacturing, logistics and supply issues provided somewhat of a wet blanket for those in the business of producing that tech. While those challenges resulted in a 3.6% decline in net revenue in fiscal 2020, strong and sustained demand resulted in a 7% increase in net revenue for its most recent third quarter, which totaled $15.3 billion. Before taking the helm at the global information technology company, Lores served as president of HP’s imaging, printing and solutions business.
While the number of Hispanic business leaders in the C-suites of top companies may not be in direct proportion to their population percentage, there is little doubt that these CEOs have considerable influence on their companies and the economy as a whole. And this is just a sampling of the wealth of talent waiting to move into positions of power in business.