“We’ve been wanting to do some type of assessment and get feedback from our members in the community on Latino leadership because we read an article about the Latino leadership gap,” says Nicole Sandoval, president of the Latino Professionals Association. “The Latino community – as we all know – has been growing. There’s been an economic boom, businesses are growing. We’ve been strong in politics and have played huge roles in electoral politics. But yet there’s this gap for Latinos in leadership positions. We have this ability elsewhere but not in the boardroom and in areas of key decision-making. That is concerning.”

The Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison will host “The State of Latino Leadership” tonight at The Madison Club in downtown Madison to have a thoughtful and interactive discussion about exactly that – the state of Latino leadership in the greater Madison region.

Latino Professionals Association President Nicole Sandoval

Sandoval did some research and discovered that nationally 7 percent of Latinos held board seats and four percent of all executive positions were held by Latinos.

“They call that the ‘4 percent shame.’ Latinos make up 17 percent of the population in the United States but we are lacking,” says Sandoval, who by day is a bilingual recruiter for Madison College in the Recruitment and Community Outreach Department. “That’s what we will explore tonight. We have lots of Latino presence in Madison, but where are we in terms of Latino leadership and decision-making roles?”

The State of Latino Leadership event will have facilitated group discussions that will give participants the opportunity to explore Latino Professionals Association members’ current leadership capacity while identifying areas for growth and development. The LPA, Sandoval says, hopes that they can be a channel to drive that number for growth. “We will be getting people’s input on that at the State of Latino Leadership and also find out how we can better suit our programming to develop more leaders,” she says.

“Being in those decision-making seats does have an impact in our community,” she continues. “Our Latino population in Madison is growing so fast and we do have so much economic power. We want to continue to develop the young professionals and get them to be in the position to be stakeholders in these key positions.”

Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison members (L-r – Mernela Anez, Juan Jose Lopez, Tania Ibarra and Sandy Morales) at a recent Building Our Legacy event.
(Photo by Hedi Rudd)

The Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison’s mission is to recognize and enhance the lives of Latino professionals through leadership development, professional growth, civic and public engagement and personal enrichment. Launched in 2013, they will be celebrating their 5th anniversary later this year.

“The LPA is doing really well,” says Sandoval, who started with the LPA as an intern when she was in college. “I started right when it was born and this is going to be the fifth anniversary. We have more than 260 members just inside 5 years. We’ve had great impact in terms of programming. We’ve collaborated with Sustain Dane and Step-up for Equity to have more difficult conversations about unconscious bias and how that affects the workplace. We’ve not only engaged Latinos, but we’ve increased the diverse pool of talent we have here in Madison.”

Sandoval is excited about the fresh faces she will be seeing at tonight’s big event.

“We’ve had great interest in this event but it’s a limited-capacity event,” she says. “We can only have 30 individuals because of the seating in the room and all of the people that registered are new names that I myself have not seen – and I’ve been involved in the Latino non-profit world for 4-5 years now. So that’s really cool.”

Sandoval says that at a lot of LPA events they get the same individuals – which is great – but that LPA is working hard to get new, young professionals involved. “People who might not always be involved in these kinds of conversations,” she says. “So, I’m very, very excited to see the new names and new faces tonight and have these important discussions and get their feedback, as well.”

Latino Professionals Association networks at Brindis Del Exito 2017
[Photo by Hedi Rudd]

The Latino Professionals Association Board of Directors will utilize the important input from The State of Latino Leadership to determine possible approaches for enhancing its members’ leadership potential and capacity and expanding its influence in the region.

“Our goals for this event are to assess where we are in terms of leadership in Madison,” Sandoval says. “We do have a lot of leaders, but what are we doing currently and what are we doing better to be the key people at the tables that we need to be at in Madison? We’ve never done anything like this before. It’s always been programming or networking events, so having a difficult conversation that might give us a different perspective on where we stand as leaders in the community will be really interesting to see.”