Carmen Castillo was elected to be Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the USHCC in 2018. She drives the direction of the USHCC and advocates on behalf of the Hispanic business community.
She is also the President and CEO of SDI International Corp. (SDI), which she founded in Florida in 1992. The company provides its clients with fully scalable global indirect procurement solutions for the tail-end, centered on Procure-to-Pay and Source-to-Pay.
As part of her responsibilities at the firm, Carmen is hands on with the overall coordination of company operations, global advertising, business development and marketing programs, along with proposal strategies and preparation.
What is your favorite aspect of being a Latina business owner?
There are about 26 million Latinas in the U.S., and the number of Latina-owned firms has shown tremendous growth in the past decade, at a rate over 130 percent. It’s a thrilling time: to be able to see the how Latinas—who will be a third of the U.S. population in a couple of decades—are contributing to, and will continue to have an enormous impact on the U.S. economy, and in policy.
We still have a lot of work to do: make sure that more Latinas have a seat at the table, in the boardroom, on ballots; keep identifying and supporting programs and funding sources that are truly inclusive, and enable other Latinas, and all women with equitable access to the tools, networks, education, and funding we need to align our potential with revenue-making opportunities.
What is the secret to building meaningful professional relationships?
Networking is part of my DNA, and I started my business initially to be a sort of matchmaker between companies and recruiters primarily in the IT industry. Going to industry and matchmaking events attuned me to supplier diversity, and that led to a transformation in from a small, Florida-based staffing company into a global procurement process outsourcing leader.
It was the connections, the conversations, the referrals, and the trust that we built from going to diversity council conferences, meetings and lots, and lots of networking events that truly opened the doors that made all the difference to our growth. Networking and making connections, and paying it forward by facilitating introductions are some of the best investments you’ll ever make, and the best favors you’ll do for anyone.
Who is your favorite female entrepreneur or influencer?
I’m lucky to work with a lot of amazing women from all over the world, through my work at SDI and the organizations that I support, and honestly, everywhere I go! It’s hard to point out one woman. I’ve been inspired by women who lead multi-billion-dollar corporations (or kingdoms!) and are as humble and approachable as they are brilliant.
I’ve been blown away by women who’ve survived war, violence, and abuse, and had the resilience to start businesses that brought transformative change to their communities. I know women who keep going, take care of their families, companies, employees and communities in spite of debilitating grief and illness. I can think of many more, and I know that the list can go on and on. Women are unstoppable.
How is the role of women in the workplace changing?
I really believe that most companies are committed to diversity and inclusion, and in the past couple of years we’ve seen a little progress in the amount of women in C-level jobs and in boardrooms, but we’re still mostly underrepresented, globally. What’s changing is the narrative; we’re more vocal about the gender and the hiring gap: women are less likely than men to be hired into a manager position, and more often than not there is only one woman in a group of top executives in any given company. Trends are moving upward, which is encouraging, but the pace is still slow.
Who inspires you?
This is another tough one; there a lot of people whose work and passion really take my breath away, but one of them is José Andrés, and not just because we share a love for cooking! He’s someone who’s really dedicated to giving back. There’s a lot to admire: he started World Central Kitchen right after the earthquake in Haiti, to help the country. He organizes meals for people in need throughout the globe, and his work in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María made him the Humanitarian of the Year—but what really inspired me is that he rose to help, and he never stopped giving. His spontaneous generosity is deeply touching to me.