For years I have been talking to corporations about the growth and profit opportunity of the Hispanic market. Factually speaking, Hispanics are the youngest and fastest-growing demographic segment in our economy. In the housing sector, Hispanics account for about 50% of the homeownership growth in America. The numbers are big and the opportunity is clear. In a nutshell, it makes good business sense for large companies to focus on Hispanic consumers. In my years running NAHREP, this has been my message to real estate firms, mortgage companies, and home builders.
However, I now realize that persuading big companies to invest more resources to reach Hispanic consumers is good, but not enough. When a company sells more of its products to Hispanic consumers, it helps them grow and make more profit, but when the overwhelming number of employees, shareholders and contractors of that company are not Hispanic, the money flows away from Hispanic communities exacerbating a wealth gap that already is untenable. The Hispanic Wealth Project Blueprint shows more information.
Public and large private corporations should be financially incentivized or even legally required to hire executives, appoint board members, and procure contractors in proportion to the overall population and the customers they sell to. For years, there has been a push to get large companies to diversify their boardrooms and suppliers, but the progress has been painfully slow. Making it a requirement may sound extreme, but the wealth gap in America has become exponentially worse during the pandemic and more than anything else, it threatens our system and our quality of life. Besides, doing something like this in not unprecedented, there are laws on the books that were designed to address this sort of problem in the past.
In banking, we have a law called the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). It essentially states that banks are required to make loans and reinvest the money they take in deposits back into the communities from where those deposits originate. Banking used to be a local business, but as banks became larger and national banks started to emerge, smaller, low- and moderate-income communities suffered when their capital was deployed to less diverse and wealthier regions of the country. Banks who score poorly on their CRA report card may be restricted from growing or making acquisitions. Banking is a heavily regulated business and because deposits are insured by the FDIC, the government has a great deal of leverage to enforce CRA.
It will be a little harder to impose these rules on non-banking companies, but not impossible. Because of CRA, the template already exists. Today, Hispanics are 18% of the population, yet hold less than 4% of the board seats, and senior executive positions for Fortune 500 companies. The data on procurement is harder to measure, but it is estimated that Hispanic-owned firms received less than 2% of the contracting opportunities from large companies. These numbers are unacceptable, and we are now at a point where drastic measures to address this issue may be required.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak at the T3 Conference in Florida…I surprised the audience when I explained how the issue of diversity has been framed incorrectly, and has for the most part alienated the business community.
Elon Musk dropped by the Real Time with Bill Maher show recently for an interview with the host. Maher, who considers himself a liberal is an obvious fan of the CEO of Tesla and Space X. The centerpiece of their conversation was their discussion regarding what Musk called the “woke mind virus” or what I prefer to call “cancel culture”.
People sometimes get me wrong. They think that because I talk a lot about giving back and living modestly, I must not care about money. On the contrary, I care a lot about money because I understand how our system works.